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AXE: playing for U.S. Soldiers in Iraq "life-changing'
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Performing for U.S. soldiers in an Iraq combat zone added a bit of an emotional edge says guitarist/singer Brad Banhagel of the rock metal group Axe.

“It was more than rewarding, we would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Banhagel in a recent interview.  “It was an honor for us to just to play for those guys.”

Axe, who recently returned from a two-week tour for U.S. soldiers in Iraq, headlines a concert scheduled Saturday, Nov. 20 at the Road House Saloon, 6159 FM 78. Also performing

is singer Rick Sanford, formerly of Legs Diamond, as well as the Killer Chihuahuas and Rockstar Riot.

Gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $17.50 and available at the Road House, Hogwild and Flipside Records.

Axe will also be signing autographs and taking pictures with fans at Alamo Music store downtown, from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.

In recent months Axe has also played with major acts in Central Texas tours including Queensryche and Saxon. The group, which is currently in the recording studio writing new songs for their next album, also played at the major South Dakota Rockfest.

But it was their two-week tour in Iraq that left a most lasting impression.

While there was the usual fears and apprehensions that come while being escorted near combat zones, Banhagel said the ultimate reward came in "playing for soldiers who are defending what our country stands for.”

"Those were real emotional shows. You got to remember we were playing for guys, these kids who are 18, 19 years old,” Banhagel said. “They love the music, they want to rock hard, and you got their undivided attention.

“Our meet & greets were almost as long as the shows.”

“I had a kid come up to me and gave me his combat mask. When they go out on combat mission, they have a choice to show their face or use this combat mask so the Taliban doesn't recognize  them. They (soldiers) also use the masks for intimidation.

“Well, this kid comes up, I think he was about 20, and said ‘I have worn this combat mask for every mission I have gone out for the last two years and I want you to have it'.”

Performing for U.S. soldiers was exhilarating. But the tour was also sobering.

When the group was being shuttled via military helicopters in Iraq with a small group of escort soldiers, they ran into a startling scene.

“At one stop, we were watching dead soldiers being brought back in coffins. I can’t tell you what that felt like.”

Photo left: Rick Sanford

At one point, a U.S. general gave the band a U.S. Flag that had flown


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