Mt. Vernon Register-News

May 7, 2011

Musically Speaking: Feeling of closure, finally


MT. VERNON — Like most Americans, the news of the death of Osama bin Laden on Sunday night gave me a certain feeling of closure that has been impending for all of us since Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

I have to admit that it was a tearful, patriotic moment to hear the 40,000 plus at Philadelphia chanting, “USA, USA, USA,” during a ESPN Sunday night baseball telecast.

Then as I expected, on Monday, the videos from Sept. 11 were once again flourishing on the Internet, giving us more cause for introspection, as well as retrospection.

Once again we were aghast as terrorists forced our own airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, as others did likewise into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

And we also saw how brave Americans averted being the missile destined for a fourth target by trying to overpower the terrorists on their aircraft, leading to their own deaths in rural Pennsylvania, near Shanks-ville.

As much as those videos aroused the feelings of almost a decade ago, there was also one little television commercial that, nine-plus years later, still takes some of the sting out of it, for me anyway.

I’ve also gotten to see that infamous Budweiser commercial that only aired on the tube exactly one time, not long after the tragedy.

Although I didn’t see it when it was first broadcast, the wonder of the Internet has ensured that the video, of the Budweiser Clydesdales making a long, cold winter-time trek to New York City and bow before the Statue of Liberty, will not be lost in the annals of time.

I recall feeling very proud of that company for taking on the expense of making the spot and only airing it the one time, even though there was clamor to see it on television again.

Of course you can still find it on the Internet in various places, but Anheuser-Busch showed real class in not taking advantage of the situation, when they very easily could have.

Very powerful stuff, indeed.

Being a radio guy since dirt was new, my heart also went out to the families of the commercial broadcast engineers and staffs of the 27 different radio stations whose primary antenna systems were located on the top floor of one of the now-toppled twin towers. Those people had zero chance of survival.

There are only a few U.S. military veterans from over the last 10 years that I could actually say that I know. One of them is South of 70 bassist/vocalist/songwriter Charles T. Lueker.

Lueker is currently a captain in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Shepard Air Force Base, Texas.

Charles T. is the guy that saw Farm for the very first time in February 2009 and went back to his airbase in Germany and wrote a song about Southern Illinois’ legendary band. That song, “Farm” is on South of 70’s new CD, “Future City.”

On Monday, I asked Charles T. what last Sundays events meant to him.

“As I reflect on last night’s [elimination] of Osama bin Laden, my hope is that it is the beginning of closure for the American people and myself. I remember rushing to work that bright September morning almost 10 years ago, when I was a sergeant in the Army at Ft. Lewis, Wash.,” said Lueker. “I remember the announcement from our commander telling us what had happened and to stand by for possible deployment. After our formation was released, we rushed into the TV room to watch the horror play over and over again on the screen. The scenes were surreal, almost like watching a movie instead of real life. The pain and terror in the room was palpable.”

“A short time later, I was tasked to play “Taps” for the funeral of Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman, who was the first American soldier killed in Afghanistan. On that cold January morning at Tahoma National Cemetary, I was fully convinced that only a matter of months separated Bin Laden from justice. Little did I suspect the almost 10 years, two wars, and 4,000 plus American lives that would fall in between that moment and last night. The cold mist that fell against my face during that service would portend the next 10 years of our nation’s history.”

After discharge from the U.S. Army, Lueker found himself compelled to continue to be involved, actually re-enlisting in an entirely different branch of the service.

“In 2006, while my brother, then Staff Sgt. Joshua Lueker, was conducting convoy patrols on the streets of Baghdad, I joined the Air Force as a Medical Service Corps officer,” Lueker said. “In 2009, I spent the summer in Ramstein Air Base, Germany, watching wounded young men and women arrive from Iraq and Afghanistan on C-17 cargo planes with a full compliment of aeromedical personnel. Stepping onto one of those loaded air-evac missions for the first time was an emotional experience for me. It was hard to keep my eyes from welling up so no one would see.

The next year, I remember watching a wounded Marine die in front of me 4,000 miles away from home while a team of Army medics made valiant efforts to keep him alive.  Those memories are forever burned into my conscienceness.”

“Now, after my own deployment to Kandahar last year, and as I watch my brother currently prepare to deploy again, this time to Kunar Province near Pakistan, last night’s events take on even more meaning,” Lueker said. “I’ll always feel the sadness of that day whenever it is mentioned, and I’ll always remember the sacrifice of those who’ve lost life and limb protecting freedom.  Perhaps the death of Osama bin Laden may not be the end of the war, but maybe at least we can begin to close this chapter.”

Thanks Capt. Lueker, for what you do. And tell your brother Josh that we say good luck to him.

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