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Thousands turn out for concert to benefit Vietnam vets
News-Journal Wire Services March 19,2000
CLEARWATER - Norman LaFountaine traveled 500 miles to listen for hours in a blistering sun Saturday to the blare of rock from a bygone era and relive memories of a war that divided a country.
LaFountaine, a Vietnam veteran, drove with his wife Johnelene from Milton, Fla., for VetRock 2000, an all-day concert by bands whose glory days were the 1960-70s.
Blood, Sweat & Tears, John Kay and Steppenwolf, The Animals II, The Guess Who, and the Lovin Spoonful were performing, among others.
"You bump into other vets; you find old friends sometimes and you associate with people with a similar experience," said LaFountaine, a former Marine Corps sergeant who served as crew chief and gunner of a medivac helicopter team in Vietnam in 1968-69.
"When you see another veteran, it's like a couple of dogs on the beach. You stop, sniff each other out and talk even though you never met before. It's kinship," said LaFountaine, as he downed a sandwich tailgating outside Coachman Park with a Marine Corps buddy, Jerry Cabral, of the Tampa Bay area.
LaFountaine views the Vietnam war as a magnet, drawing his generation closer together. "You never put it behind you. You put it in perspective," he said.
The concert, which benefits programs of Vietnam veteran groups, also had another element to Cabral: "It helps you forget you're 50-plus."
On the shores of Clearwater Bay, palm trees swayed gently in a balmy breeze as David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears belted out, "You Made Me So Very Happy," a golden oldie from the late 1960s.
Two hours into the 10-hour concert, 4000 people - many with graying hair - had turned out for the $20 and $25 event. Veterans, now in the 50s, came in numbers bringing their families and lawn chairs. Some baby boomers came for the festival-like atmosphere, others, the music.
"I've never been to a concert with so many old people since the symphony," said Marjie Shadid, a night club jazz performer from Oklahoma City who was visiting relatives in Tampa.
Even before The Boxtops opened, more than 1000 had gathered - more than 10 percent from outside Florida.
There were representatives from out-of-state veterans groups, sizing up the event with the hope of bringing the concert tour to their stomping ground.
Clearwater was the kickoff of a planned 31-city tour that ends in November at Houston. The second stop is May 13 at Willow Grove Naval Air Station in Pennsylvania.
Robyn Bates and her husband, Lu, a Vietnam veteran, put together the tour. Half the proceeds of VetRock will go to Vietnam veteran groups to use for their outreach programs and other charities of their choice, Robyn Bates said.
"It allows the guys to come together as Vietnam vets, spend the day together with memories of war and memories of music we listened to during the war and it's for the guys to remember that war was not all bad," said Tom Corey, of West Palm Beach, vice president of the 50,000-member Vietnam Veterans of America.
Nearly 3 million American troops served in Vietnam, an unpopular war where returning veterans were met with hostility and greeted as losers.
Robyn Bates said the concert helps give veterans a chance to get involved with each other, with the community, feel good and be proud of what they can accomplish.
The concert closes with the biggest hits from Armed Forces radio: "We gotta Get Out of This place," by The Animals II, and "Born to Be Wild," by John Kay and Steppenwolf.
"It's a chance for people to have a good time and enjoy a festival atmosphere. We've reached an age where we can enjoy it. And remember it," Robyn Bates said, adding:
"It's the Woodstock generation with sun screen instead of drugs." ) 2000 News-Journal Corp. . news-journalonline.com
-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 19, 2000
It's odd to see 'Nam summarized so succinctly when the shock waves are still being felt. Agent Orange is still with us in vets and God forgive us, some of the children. Gulf War Syndrome mirrors AO And PTSD. The defective gear of Bosnia and recent Gulf Action will continue it one.
I'm a music surfer: I hit our local hard rock stations and I can tell you CCR and Steppenwolf make guest appearances on a regular basis. The Floyd has a place in the laser performances at our museum: every generation since 'Nam has been introduced to The Wall (musically). The despair that produced the music of the 'Nam generation is just as bitter today as it was thirty years ago, and now we give it to the young to drink, just in a cup with a different name. Didn't learn a damn thing, did we? It ain't over.
-- another government hack (Keepwatching_2000@yahoo.com), March 19, 2000.
-- David Whitelaw (email@example.com), March 19, 2000.
Thank God someone remebers the boys, so many died, the ones who came back were scared mental and body.
-- ET (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 19, 2000.