Drowning Pool Floods Military with Goodwill on USO Tour
By Christian Pelusi
Music fans familiar with the hard rock band Drowning Pool can envision how the dynamic, driving rhythms of songs like “Bodies,” “Enemy” and “One Finger and a Fist,” can appeal to military members looking for a little motivation before a mission.
Away from the stage and recording studio, the band’s philanthropic efforts reveal a softer side.
For more than a decade, Drowning Pool has donated hundreds of concert tickets and thousands of dollars to the USO from performances as part of its wide-ranging charity work which includes a yearly Toys for Tots drive and support of the American Heart Association. The latter is in honor of lead singer Dave Williams who died in 2002 as a result of an diagnosed heart condition.
“I get to do my dream of what I’ve always wanted to do and that’s play in a rock band,” founding member and guitarist C.J. Pierce said. “The least we can do is give back.”
Drowning Pool began giving back to the USO, service members and families in 2005 during a USO entertainment tour to Kuwait. Other USO tours to Iraq, Germany, the United Kingdom and stateside bases followed. Now, 11 years later, the band is preparing to embark on its fifth USO tour, this time to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam on April 6 and Japan’s Kadena Air Base and Camp Foster on April 8 and 9, respectively.
“We love playing anywhere and everywhere,” Pierce said. “I’m excited that we’re going to the South Pacific this time and hit some of the bases there… I’d love to play every single base at some point [in] our careers.”
The members of the band have intimate connections with the military, including Pierce’s father-in-law who served in the Navy, bassist Stevie Benton’s father who served in Vietnam and drummer Mike Luce’s brother who is currently serving.
“[Our service members] are the hardest working people on the planet and it’s a very focused job, so giving them that mental break for a minute. Whether it’s entertainment and rock music with us or the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders or whoever’s involved in it, it’s very important,” Pierce said. “That’s a very stressful job and they need that break and we’re definitely thankful and very appreciative that we’re part of the USO and we’ll continue to do so.”
Off stage, the band members are as personable as they are intense on stage and having the chance to interact with service men and women before and after shows has created lasting memories and friendships. Many of their meet-and-greets stretch over six hours as the guys chat and take pictures with as many people who request one.
“We hang out with everybody,” Pierce. said. “We’ll sign every single thing for every single person. Sometimes people aren’t able to see the show and we’ll hang out with them after until it’s time to go because the plane’s ready to leave.
“We’re there for everybody, that’s what it’s all about. The show’s just one aspect. We love being a part of that.”
Pierce’s 2007 birthday, spent on a USO tour in Iraq stands out because it included a surprise birthday cake, which found its way to his face. “It was 120 degrees outside and I got to finish the show with hot, melted chocolate cake all over me. All in good fun.”
Multi-platinum hard rock band Drowning Pool members C.J. Pierce (center), Jasen Moreno (left) and Mike Luce (right) perform for troops at F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming on Sept. 11, 2013, as part of their fourth USO tour
The service members of Malmstrom AFB in Montana salute Drowning Pool as they perform Sept. 13, 2013.
From left to right, Drowning Pool band members Stevie Benton, C.J. Pierce, Jasen Moreno and Mike Luce suit up with EOD troops during their USO tour to F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming on Sept. 11, 2013.
At the meet-and-greet after the concert, new friendships with service members were forged.
Fast forward a few years to a show in Fayetteville, N.C.
“A bunch of those guys came out to the show. I hadn’t seen them since [the 2007 Iraq show] and they brought pictures… It’s just awesome to have that connection with them and it was great to see them back home stateside.
“Those relationships, they last forever,” he added. Experiences like those, combined with the USO’s mission, keep bringing Drowning Pool back for more chances to meet service members.
“The thing that comes up all the time, and it’s almost a nightly thing for us, is [service members] come up and say [the shows] give them a mental break from doing their job and makes them feel connected to back home,” Pierce said. “I mean, it’s awesome for us to give them that. That a rock show makes them feel like [they’re] home for a minute. Music affects all of us and I’m glad to be a part of that.”
Watch a video from Drowning Pool’s 2013 USO tours to Germany, the U.K. and U.S. bases:
You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.