I was asked why do I go to Washington, D.C., and sing for Rolling Thunder/POW-MIA. Well, I didn’t serve in the military, but my father served in the Korean War and my son serves in the Navy. I feel like I missed out serving my country, so I do what I can. I sing my heart out.
My first year at Rolling Thunder was right after 9-11; I was nervous going out there from Washington State for the first time. I wasn’t sure what I’d come across. I thought it was going to be a good opportunity for me to show what I could do, and maybe someone would hear me sing and like what they heard.
But I soon found out it wasn’t about Gordon Painter. It was about showing my humble respect to those that suffered through unspeakable things for their country. Not only did they suffer while they were away, but they were completely disrespected when they came home; you know what I’m talking about.
I think it was my second or third year at Rolling Thunder that they brought the Wounded Warriors down to the stage on Sunday before Memorial Day for the speeches and entertainment. Crystal was sitting next to me. She was 21 years old and recently came home from across the pond. Walter Reed Hospital patched her up, as she had a cage around her left leg holding the bones in place. Her other leg didn’t do as well. It was missing just below the knee. I thanked her for her service. She answered, “I was just doing my job.” I had to fight back the tears and the lump in my throat. What hell did she endure.
I thank every veteran I see and, boy, have I heard some stories. For any veteran out there reading this, “Thank you for keeping us all safe and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sacrifices and for your families’ sacrifices.”
To the Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action, you know what’s in my heart. God bless you and your families. No more soldiers left behind.
• Gordon Painter, born in Kelso, Washington, and raised on a farm, enjoys singing, especially at local VFWs and VA hospitals.