Courtesy of Katie Anderson who is a staff writer for Observer-Reporter / Green County News.
WAYNESBURG – When Mike Belding was deployed overseas, the song that most reminded him of home was John Denver’s “Country Roads.”
That song will be played for him later this month during a Warriors Rock concert performed by the Gary Racan and Studio E Band at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 in the Waynesburg Central High School auditorium.
Racan and his wife, Kim, started the nonprofit Warriors Rock three years ago as a series of concert tributes to veterans. Gary, who once was the lead singer of the famous band The Vogues in the late 1960s, started his now 15-piece band 15 years ago to perform for private events. The band, based in Pittsburgh, has performed for celebrity weddings, events and even PGA Tour events.
Wherever they hold a Warriors Rock concert, they interview the local veterans and tell their stories as part of the show and play for those veterans a song that reminded them of home while they were deployed, no matter the genre.
“It’s really touching,” said band manager Kim Racan. “I fall in love with every single veteran who’s interviewed. What they experience and their stories, every one of them stands out.”
Last week, the band interviewed 10 Greene County veterans in preparation for its upcoming show. Belding, a Marine, was one of them. He served from 1985 to 2012, and in that time did three tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan and one in Somalia.
Belding, of Whiteley Township, said many local veterans are looking forward to the concert, especially with it being so close to Veterans Day.
“I think this is important because it brings people together so we can recognize the vets and the sacrifices they’ve made and that they’re families have made,” Belding said. “All those numbers of veterans are part of that this local community, and they’ve contributed to the freedom we enjoy.”
The recognition of veterans is exactly why the Racans started the Warriors Rock concerts. Kim Racan said both of their fathers were veterans, and they wanted to start doing shows that their families could attend and enjoy. Gary Racan said “nothing is more rewarding.”
“These young people give 10 or more years of their lives and sometimes their limbs while overseas,” he said. “These guys are out fighting in a war for years, and this is the least we could do to bring awareness to them. We’re trying to help out any way we can.”
Kim Racan said that at the end of the show, they call all the veterans to the front, pass out American flags to the entire audience and sing “God Bless the USA.”
She said it’s the first time they will have performed it in Waynesburg. After an April show in Uniontown, Kim Racan said they were asked to come to Waynesburg.
Sheila Stewart, vice president of First National Bank, has been rounding up sponsors for the show by reaching out to area businesses. She has nine sponsors so far, with Advanced Masonry as the main one.
“I’ve never really had an opportunity to do something specific for veterans,” she said. “My dad and husband are veterans, and I just felt like it was something I’d want to help out with.”
Stewart also said that since all proceeds from the concert will benefit local legions, the show will have a positive impact on local veterans in need.
“Whenever there’s a veteran in need, the Legions help them out,” she said.
Kim Racan said each show varies in how much money they raise, but it’s typically thousands of dollars.
Belding said the American Legions in Greene County all appreciate any outside fundraising they receive.
“Our charter is devoted to veterans, and we thrive on mutual helpfulness,” he said. “Through our membership, we put the majority of our money directly back into the community.”
The band will be performing a Warriors Rock concert at 7 p.m. today at Connellsville Area High School.
Tickets are $20 for general admission and $10 for students and veterans. Tickets are available at the five American Legions in Greene County, or can be purchased online at www.warriorsrock.org.
The Pittsburgh-based Gary Racan and Studio E Band will perform a Warriors Rock concert to raise money for veterans at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at Waynesburg Central High School.