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Singer goes on once-in-a-lifetime tour
Hesperian Teina Tahauri joins Crash Dance band on tour of U.S. Army bases in Iraq
For many people, songs remind them of special times, a certain someone, or a memorable place. For Teina Tahauri of Hesperia, the summer of 2008 has literally sets of songs that will spark memories of a once-in-a-lifetime experience singing for U.S. troops in Iraq.
Recently Tahauri, who works in the commercial real estate field, returned from a three-week tour with Crash Dance, a Top 40 cover band featuring his sister, Becky Moon, on lead vocals.
"I was surprised that I got permission from my wife to go," said Tahauri, who also is a vocalist. "It was a big commitment to leave."
Not to mention a tremendous leap of faith.
Crash Dance, which is based in his sister's hometown of Duarte, got the gig through a production company that works with the U.S. Army's Morale, Welfare and Recreation division. MWR books bands, sets up competitive ping pong matches and even arranges for karaoke singing for troops.
"Anything that's recreational, they handle," Tahauri said.
The band's journey began with a commercial flight to Frankfurt, Germany, then a quick flight to Kuwait.
"I found a Subway sandwich to eat," he said.
From there, they took a Blackhawk helicopter to special locations in Iraq. The band performed in Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, Camp Adder in Tallil Air Base, and Camp Victory in Baghdad.
"I was so impressed with the soldiers. We met hundreds and hundreds of soldiers. We met soldiers from all over."
Due to the band's large repertoire, they were prepared to play all styles of music. The six-piece group played Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, or Johnny Cash for more mature Army members. "Some of the leadership is older," he said. But for the average soldier, they played Iron Maiden, Radio Head, System of a Down and Paramore.
One of the more popular songs, however, was "Sweet Home Alabama," which seemed to strike a special chord among the soldiers.
"That's something that people really liked."
When in doubt "we'd take requests."
At Camp Bucca, which is a holding facility for security detainees, the band performed two shows to allow all stationed there to enjoy the upbeat vibes.
"So many people showed up," he said.
One of Tahauri's favorite memories was when as many as 40 or 50 soldiers with rifles in hand joined in a line dance. Some Iraqi soldiers being trained by the U.S. military also participated.
"Toward the end they all jumped in. It was a very cool moment."
One genre of music the band never performed was anything overly emotional or patriotic.
"They don't need a reminder that they're homesick," Tahauri said. "We decided we're going to stick to fun, entertaining and sometimes goofy songs."
But Tahauri, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will remember other special experiences as well. He was fascinated to go to the home of Abraham, the biblical figure who is a founding patriarch not only in Christianity but in the Muslim and Jewish traditions as well.
"That was a remarkable moment for me," he said.
He was also impressed that the U.S. military would teach Iraqi detainees how to read and write. Islamic leaders, known as imams, also would be brought in to help educate the detainees about the Quran's real truth.
"Imams showed that the Quran doesn't say to kill," he said.
For Tahauri, who recently joined Crash Dance, it was a first time going to Iraq. But the band was there before.
"Everyone in this band wanted to go there. Everyone wanted to be there."
In fact, the band felt completed safe during the entire tour.
"We were never in danger. Never, ever, ever, ever. I never had the slightest inkling of worry."
The band also spent some time at U.S. military bases in Italy and Germany. But it was the wives and children of U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq that came to their shows. During one show, Becky was carried by the military women in a moment of pure rock 'n' roll.
One of the most poignant moments, however, came after a bandmember had to be taken to a German hospital after he fell off the bandstand and bruised his liver.
"He was in terrible pain."
But while he was recovering at the hospital, the bandmembers watched as four buses of wounded U.S. soldiers brought them in on gurneys for treatment.
"They would load the next one, the next one and the next one," Tahauri said. "That was a very moving moment for me because it reminded us that it was very serious."
Tahauri would gladly go back for encore tour if he could.
"If my wife would let me, I'd go back for sure."