Pictured - 9,680 Miles to Smithville! - While in Afghanistan, Larry Nalley and Aaron Tippin displayed a sign showing how many miles they traveled to entertain American Troops. (Photo provided)
Aaron Tippin, his band and managers returned home last week from entertaining American Troops overseas. Their USO Tour itinerary included stops in Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Qatar.
Tippin, still recovering from the lack of sleep while on the trip, enjoyed lunch with his family at Aaron Tippin Outdoors on Monday and spoke with The Times in an exclusive interview regarding his experiences. "It took us 28 hours and 56 minutes in flying time, from when the plane took off until it landed in Nashville," Tippin said of the travel time involved in the trip.
"The time spent with the troops was very rewarding, and the shows went off great," he said. The troops, who were actually Coalition Forces including Tennessee Air Guard refuelers and KC 135's, were excited to have a visit from Tippin. "If you just show up, you are an okay guy. It always surprises them that someone would come that far to see them."
He related one glitch that happened during a show. "I put together a bike for Toys for Tots during my shows while I'm singing 'Working Man's Ph.D.' This bike was damaged during shipping, and it wasn't checked before the show. So here I am trying to put it together on stage, and the forks are bent. I finally figured it out, but it was pretty touch and go for a while."
"We spent one whole day signing autographs and hanging out with the troops down at the recreation center. We visited with all the guys and gals on the flight line the next day and then went to the Armory and visited with them," he said.
While there, Tippin also presented the troops with banners signed by DeKalb Countians showing area support for the efforts and sacrifices made for our country, especially during the holiday season.
He also had Thanksgiving dinner with General Tommy Franks. Tippin sang 'Stars and Stripes' at an awards presentation, and the General gave Tippin a knife with his insignia on it, which he was very proud of. "I'm going to have the knife framed and hang it here in the store," said Tippin.
Tippin told The Times of the atmosphere of being in countries so far from home. "It was very much a third world country. You felt like you'd been captured and was going to be interrogated at any moment."
Tippin reflected on his most memorable happening during the trip. "The thing I'm never going to forget is probably when we left Qatar and got detained on our way home. The military base is on one side of the airfield, and the commercial terminal is on the other, so we left the military area and went to the other area without checking into customs. We got our luggage loaded on the plane, got our tickets and were about to go through their customs. By this time, most of the military personnel had left us, except for one guy from Military Entertainment Affairs. He was a captain and was leading us through. He was under the impression that his orders would get us through customs. But he was wrong.
"They held us for 24 hours. They wouldn't let us leave the country. We couldn't go back to the base because it was closed until the morning, and this was in the middle of the night. So in all actuality, we were illegal aliens, because we didn't have a stamp. It was obvious that we were Westerners, and if they had wanted to, they could have arrested us. They told us we had to go to a hotel until everything got straightened out. It was pretty spooky. They kept trying to detain us longer because they said they couldn't get the paperwork finished in time for the flight. I finally told them they could either let us go on that flight, or I'd talk to some of my 'friends' that I had made, including General Franks, and get it done. We did end up getting on that flight. "The group was scheduled to arrive home over 24 hours earlier giving Tippin a day to recover from the trip before beginning interviews. Instead, they got home with only six hours to spare.
Tippin enjoyed the experience but expressed how grateful he is to be back in DeKalb County and how he looks forward to spending the holidays with his family.