Words By Julie Espinosa, Photos By Armando Gallardo, Video By Julie Espinosa & Armando Gallardo
Thousands of active and retired members of the armed forces regularly come to visit our nation’s capital on Veteran’s day. As a way to celebrate it as more than just a weekend of sales’ said HBO’s CEO Richard Plepler, he and Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, decided to honor our veterans with a one-of-a-kind concert at the National Mall.
The Concert for Valor was nationally televised on HBO and their affiliates, as well as broadcasted through Iheart radio and streamed online, while fans in D.C. were allowed to be part of it for free. There was an estimated 800,000 in attendance. Organizers aimed to bring awareness to veterans while urging fans to donate their time and money to causes and organizations that support veterans.
One of such organization was Team Rubicon, which was founded by U.S. Marines William McNultu and Jacob Wood who saw the opportunity to support veterans whose wide variety of skills aren’t being utilized in regular jobs but that are essential during disaster relief operations. Wood spoke about the importance of providing veterans with ways to continue helping others when coming back home. Throughout the concert, founders, members and veterans were highlighted in vignettes that told their stories while simultaneously working as perfect transitions between the evening’s different acts.
The concert started with a rendition of the Star Spangled banner by Jennifer Hudson and a color guard which left attendees and talent backstage teary-eyed, as Jamie Foxx later shared with the audience. The performance was followed by the duo of Jenniffer Hudson and Jessie J for the song “Titanium.”
Merryl Streep was then in charge to introduce DC’s own Dave Grohl, who sang “My Hero” and “Everlong” without the Foo Fighters but accompanied by his acoustic guitar and a keyboard player. Grohl got the audience to join him for the first sing-along of the night during “My Hero’s” chorus.
Following this performance were the Black Keys and the Zach Brown Band, the latter of which were joined by Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl for a cover of “Fortunate Son.” The cover drew criticism from conservatives and sparked a Twitter debate between those opposed and in favor of the song playing during a concert in honor of our veterans. Some argued that the songs insulted men and women who enlist in the military while others stated that it wasn’t really anti-veterans or anti-American but more focused on the draft years and the social and economical discrimination that existed when picking such candidates and that, some argue, exists to this day. One thing that both sides seemed to agree on was how fantastic the performance was and the high level of energy that the Grohl, Springsteen and Brown displayed.
That ensemble CCR cover was followed by Carrie Underwood, who sang “Something in the Water” with the Singing Sergeants Choir and Metallica, who were surrounded by veterans who banged their heads along throughout performance. Metallica was introduced by Jack Black who said they were one of the veterans favorites, which certainly showed during their show and that really got things shaking not only for the audience but also at the media tent which couldn’t stop vibrating because of the high levels of bass.
An American icon, Bruce Springsteen, came next with a completely acoustic set of “Promise land,” “The Wall” and “Born in the USA,” which resonated with a lot of the veterans as it talks about the treatment they received during and after the Vietnam War as well as the effects that war have in our soldiers.
Rihanna followed with “Diamonds” and “Stay” to be later joined by Eminem for “Monster” which got the attendees jumping up and down once again. Eminem was then left for two of his own, “Lose Yourself” and “Not Afraid,” which was dedicated to all the veterans. Yet, the rapper also attracted some more social media controversy when he dropped quite a few F-bombs, been the most controversial his salute to the troops with a “Happy Motherfucking Veterans Day”.
The Concert for Valor featured other artists and personalities such as Oprah, Bob Woodruff, Steven Spielberg, and even President Obama, who delivered a message to all attendees and the troops at the beginning of the show.
Before the concert started, 3 people were arrested for attempting to jump the fence on 7th and Madison Drive and 9 people were treated for minor medical issues during the event. Overall the organizers and the fans who attended the concert spoke with great enthusiasm and a sense of accomplishment of the Concert for Valor which will certainly go down in history as one of its kind and hopefully to be repeated. On that note, both Starbucks’ and HBO CEOs spoke about the possibility of making this a Veteran’s day tradition.