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Entertainment: Tippin entertains troops in Afghanistan

Friday, December 20, 2002

Tippin entertains troops in Afghanistan


The News Herald

Country star Aaron Tippin and his band had no trouble getting into Afghanistan to perform for the troops stationed there. Getting out was another matter.

"We were detained in Qatar, as the authorities there said they had no paperwork on us ever being there," he said. "We went to the hotel, and I told everybody to just go to their rooms and don't come out. Once we got to the hotel, I realized the reason they wouldn't let us out is because we don't have an entry stamp."

Once he realized that, a sense of fear came over Tippin.

"In essence, that made us illegal aliens," he said. "We should be on that base over there or we should have a stamp. We were trying to get on a flight at 2 a.m., and they said we would be on a flight at 11 a.m. the next morning. So I said OK.

"When I woke up the next morning, I went to my tour manager's room and he told me we weren't going to make the 11 a.m. flight and would be on the 2 a.m. flight the next morning, which was Wednesday morning. Then we were told it might be Thursday before we get you out."

At that point, Tippin got mad and took over.

"They didn't see the urgency in this," he said of the U.S. military. "Being an illegal alien in a country where Westerners are not all that liked was not a good thing. Qatar is the place where the al-Qaida and Taliban take their vacation.

"If word would have got out that there were a bunch of entertainers for the U.S. military over here, (they'd start wondering) 'Why don't we go over there and have some fun with them?' I don't think the folks in charge realized how close this could have been to a hostage situation."

Tippin and his band stayed right out on the front lines with the troops. There were no nights in a hotel for the band.

"I had a great time," he said. "You know me, I was foaming at the mouth to get over there and do that. We did it just like the grunts, and I really wanted to. When I went to Saudi Arabia with Bob Hope in 1990, we stayed in the fancy hotels and ate at the nice restaurants. I had a lot more fun this time.

"Every time I stepped out of a tent, I would walk right up to a soldier and he would say, 'Hey, you are Aaron, how you doin'?' I think if we had not even done a show, they would have been thrilled. I sat and watched a ball game with them. They had a satellite rigged up and they tore them up, they loved it."

Tippin said this trip to perform for the troops was better than the last one.

"I think it was better for me because I had more fun doing it the real way," he said. "And it was better because the morale was higher. I thought the morale was high when I went to Saudi Arabia, but it was really good now. Our troops feel good about what they are doing."

Tippin ate Thanksgiving turkey with the soldiers and one very special fan.

"I got to have turkey dinner with Gen. Tommy Franks (commander of the troops serving in Afghanistan)," he said. "His wife is a big fan, and he is also a fan of country music. She was the reason we got to go over there."

Tippin and his band performed the same show they do in the U.S. with the addition of some Christmas songs. After one of his performances, Franks presented Tippin with a commemorative bowie knife that Tippin will place in a special box and hang on the wall of his home.

Tippin's recent single, Where The Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly went over big with the troops. But a special segment of the show that was prepared before they left for Afghanistan received the biggest ovation.

"Before we left, I went on Country's Most Wanted on CMT and while we were on there, we showed a 1-800 number to wish the troops well," he explained. "We took that over and we played it at the front of the shows and they went nuts. Someone would call from their hometown and they went nuts. We also took banners from radio stations all over the country. We gave them away after the shows and three times people recognized signatures."

As much fun as Tippin had, he is glad to be home. The much-delayed flight finally took 28 hours and 56 minutes.

"It starts as soon as you see that coastline go out of sight," he said. "This is the greatest country in the world and we need to relax with that. I was in London and I got something called vegetable soup. Hell, that wasn't vegetable soup. It had a little chip of carrot in it and it was green and it tasted kind of soupy. But man, that wasn't vegetable soup."

Even with the trouble getting out of Afghanistan, Tippin is ready to go back to visit the troops right now.

"I wish I could figure a way to go for Christmas," he said. "We talked about taking (wife) Thea and the boys with us but I am glad they didn't come with us because I would have been a nervous wreck. We would have not stayed in any hotel, the military would have come and taken us back to the base."

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© The News Herald

© 2002 The News Herald


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