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Mar 27, 2018 1:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

'Warriors Rock' Concert Will Honor Local Military Veterans

Mar 28, 2018 12:36 PM

In 1993, U.S. Navy Admiral Tom Richards was stationed in Haiti, in charge of a special operations task force, overseeing 1,000 servicemen and women scattered throughout the island nation, providing support and security to locals.

Every evening, the commanding officer where he was staying would turn on the loudspeakers and play Lee Greenwood’s patriotic anthem, “God Bless the U.S.A.” Every morning, when Adm. Richards was preparing for the day ahead, the song would be on his mind as he looked in the mirror and shaved.

“I was reminded every day of the abject poverty that these people lived in,” he said. “I had a huge appreciation for my American heritage.

“Everybody in the camp responded to that song with a smile on their face,” he added. “And they could not wait to go home.”

Those memories will be at the forefront of Adm. Richards’s mind on Saturday, April 7, when he will be one of several local veterans honored at the “Warriors Rock” concert, presented by Gary Racan and the Studio-E Band, at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. The show starts at 7 p.m. and all tickets are $43.

The band, which hails from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, puts on the Warriors Rock show at various locations around the country, each time honoring a group of local veterans by showing pre-recorded interviews with them and then performing songs of their choosing that reminded them of home while they were stationed abroad. The band says it donates 100 percent of its proceeds to local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts.

Adm. Richards now lives in Virginia, but spent his formative years on Long Island, splitting his time between Bay Shore, Hampton Bays and Quogue. He had an illustrious 30-year military career with the Navy SEALS, retiring as a rear admiral, with combat experience in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.

He credits summers spent at the Surf Club on Dune Road in Quogue with teaching him how to handle rough surf conditions, an essential skill for making it as a Navy SEAL.

Adm. Richards and the other local veterans being honored represent a cross-section of generations, with service in wars and conflicts from World War II to Afghanistan. The show will also pay tribute to: Creighton Berry, 94, of Quiogue, who flew in World War II with the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black unit in the Army Air Corps; Jimmy Papandrea, another World War II veteran who died on February 27 and served in the Pacific with the Marines, fighting in several key battles; Peter Cuthbert, 88, a retired Army colonel who served in the Korean War and was a longtime teacher in the Westhampton Beach School District; former Mayor George Motz of Quogue, who was on active duty with the Army during the Vietnam War and assigned to inform family members, in person, that a loved one had died in battle; Rick Robinson of Hampton Bays, who enlisted in the Army at the age of 40 and served a tour of duty in Afghanistan; Lisha Terry of Westhampton Beach, a technical sergeant who has been with the 106th Rescue Wing for more than a decade; and the entire 106th Air Rescue Squadron, stationed at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.

The show will also pay special tribute to Captain Andreas O’Keeffe, Master Sergeant Christopher Raguso, Captain Christopher Zanetis and Technical Sergeant Dashan Briggs, members of the 106th Rescue Wing who were killed in a non-combat helicopter crash in Iraq on March 15.

Filmed interviews with the local veterans will conclude with each talking about a song they chose and its significance to them, before the band plays the song live.

Re-creating those songs as close to their original sound as possible is a priority for Mr. Racan, and he says his band has the unique ability to do so because of the versatility and talent of its 15 members, which includes his wife, Kim Racan, one of seven vocalists, and several musicians adept at guitar, keyboard, drums, fiddle and horns.

The Racans created the Warriors Rock show five years ago, initially intending to do only one show a year, while continuing in their usual line of work—performing at private events. The band has been together for more than a decade, and Mr. Racan had a well-established career before that, as a vocalist with The Vogues, an international recording group.

The choice to create the Warriors Rock show was borne out of a desire to give back to veterans. Both Mr. and Ms. Racan’s fathers served in the military, which they said was part of their inspiration. “They always instilled in us that you thank your veterans,” Ms. Racan said in an interview last week.

Certain songs are repeat requests, such as “When The Lights Go On All Over The World,” which was Mr. Berry’s choice. It was a popular song during World War II, referencing the lights-out at sundown curfews imposed in London and adhered to in other cities in an attempt to make it harder for enemy forces to bomb those cities at night.

The lyrics speak to a yearning for a simpler time: “When the lights go on all over the world / and the boys are home again all over the world / and rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above / a kiss won’t mean ‘good-bye’ but ‘hello to love.’”

Songs by Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller were also popular at that time, and the Racans said they fondly recalled a show where they performed Sinatra’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” for Florence “Shutzy” Reynolds, a 94-year-old pilot who was one of the first women to fly combat missions during World War II.

“We were all crying when the song was over,” Mr. Racan recalled.

They added that “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” by The Animals is a popular choice among Vietnam veterans, while Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” has been a repeat request for veterans from the Korean War era.

The Racans promise that those in attendance can expect great music, and Mr. Motz, who helped choose and interview the local veterans, said he is excited for spectators to hear the stories the veterans have to tell as well. He said he was initially hesitant to accept the invitation to be honored, because he does not consider himself a military hero, especially in comparison to his fellow honorees. But he said he ultimately accepted because it would give him a chance to speak about what he says are the unsung heroes of war and conflict—the many family members who must pick up the pieces of their lives and move on after their loved ones sacrifice their lives for their country.

Mr. Motz, Adm. Richards and the Racans are enthusiastic about the upcoming show and share a fervency for the concert’s core mission: honoring and supporting military veterans.

“[Warriors Rock] is going above and beyond for our veterans,” Adm. Richards said. “You might walk down the street and you don’t recognize an individual who has [post traumatic stress disorder] and you won’t recognize the difficulty they have in daily operation, and folks from Warriors Rock are reaching out to find the people who might fall through the cracks.”

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