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Brant Cotton performs in front of Marines, sailors and soldiers on stage at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation building at Al Asad, Iraq, May 16. Cotton is the lead vocalist for Von Cotton and is a native of Bakersfield, Calif. He and his band, toured the Al Anbar Province of Iraq performing for troops.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran

Country band livens up Al Asad

21 May 2006 | Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran

The country band, Von Cotton, entertained a crowd of service members at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation building here May 16 to raise morale for troops.

"The guys were great," said Cpl. Michael K. Bane, air traffic controller, Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "They did an awesome job! They sang a bunch of songs that I knew and some of their own music."

The four members of Von Cotton all had different reasons for coming out and performing for the troops.

"If I didn't come out here and do this, I would have felt like a big coward," said Brant Cotton, lead vocalist for the band. "It's impossible for someone to support the war and not be willing to come and entertain the service members over here when the opportunity arises."

"Everything the troops do over here goes unappreciated or misunderstood by people back in the United States," said Jimmie L. Acre, drummer for the group. "We wanted to come down here and show all the service members that we appreciate them and we wanted to make their lives a little easier. It's the least we could do. It is an honor to come out here and play for all the troops. Hopefully, we made their lives a little easier and brought them a taste of home -- even if it was just for 30 minutes."

While most of the band decided to tour Iraq to show their support for those stationed there, one band member did it for a relative.

"My nephew is a Marine and he just got back from Fallujah, so I knew that I'd better do this," said John Bowdler, guitarist for Von Cotton. "I came out to show the troops they have our support. I had to put my butt where my mouth was. I was always talking about how much we appreciate what everyone over here is doing. There was no way I could not go."

Al Asad wasn't the only place the California-based band visited while in Iraq. They visited Tallil, Balad, the Haditha Dam and other bases throughout the Al Anbar Province.

"Of all the bases we visited, Haditha was the worst," said Acre, a native of Seattle. "The bugs were horrible there, but we would go back in a heartbeat to play for the guys there."

In the end, all the guys agreed that visiting the service members was an experience they would never forget and would gladly repeat.

"I would love to do this again," said Cotton, a native of Bakersfield, Calif. "Hopefully, we are a psychological escape for the guys and girls over here. They all really deserve at least that much."
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing