By Phil Briggs
While he may be best known as the axe man that helped define the sound of the 70s super-group The Eagles, Joe Walsh is doing more than just rocking the guitar. He’s also supporting veterans — having created Vets Aid, a concert-based foundation designed to raise funds for veterans’ programs with a proven success record.
And he’s doing so for reasons that may surprise some people.
“My father died in 1949 and I wasn’t quite two years old,” says Walsh. It happened in a training accident when his dad was serving on active military duty in Okinawa, Japan. “I never really talked much about it, but I’m not an outsider looking in. I’m a Gold Star kid.”
That personal experience, and having encountered veterans over the years — and those helping them — evoked a sense of wanting to help.
“Something that gets me upset is homeless vets,” Walsh explains, ” so there’s basic survival, helping those guys. Then there are the prosthetic people, who are backed up waiting for help, then there are the suicidal people who need help, and then there are the families, the Gold Star families.”
It struck Walsh that he could contribute to vets and their families’ quality of life through big concert events — the first of which will be held Sept. 20 at the EagleBank Arena, just outside Washington, D.C. (Click here for more on Vets Aid.)
“I saw Willie Nelson turn Farm Aid into something that happens every year,” he says. “So I’m kind of modeling after Farm Aid, and hopefully this is the first of many concerts and events where vets can come together.”
Walsh has gathered a noteworthy roster of fellow musicians for the inaugural Vets Aid concert: Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band and Gary Clark, Jr.
But he has also given a lot of thought to which veteran support groups will benefit from the concert proceeds.
“In my travels across the country,” says Walsh, “I’ve come across some places where there are smaller organizations that are vet-operated and they’re making a huge difference”
Among the groups set to receive money from the Vets Aid concert are Operation Mend, Hire Heroes, Warrior Canine Connection, TAPS, the Semper Fi Fund, the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, Stop Soldier Suicide, and Swords to Plowshares.
“These little groups are in the trenches. I’ve seen what they’re doing, and they’re hanging on by a thread. It’s those people I decided I want to help, and they should keep going.”
Walsh has also experienced the drug and alcohol dangers sometimes associated with the life of a rock star. He says, having come through that experience, he has empathy for injured veterans dealing with addiction.
“Now there are prescription drugs that are prescribed to you for pain,” he says, “but when that runs out, you have a dependency on the prescription drugs. And there’s no program in place to help you recover from that.”
To those and other vets, Walsh says he hopes to offer inspiration. “I’m sure there’s people out there who think it’s too high a mountain to climb. But I’m telling ya, it isn’t.”
As to the coming concert: “There’s a lot of work to do,” he says, “but with great hopes for the future, we’re on our way.”