Story by Erin Wittkop, Defense Media Activity
Kevin Bacon put 80’s awareness aside for an evening to join forces with his brother Michael and their Bacon Brothers bandmates to raise post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury awareness during the “Stand for the Troops” first annual benefit concert on March 22 in Washington, D.C.
The Bacon Brothers band signed on for a pro bono performance for a cause that’s long been near and dear to their hearts: supporting service members. They were joined by other performers like Saturday Night Live comedian Jim Breuer and musical duo Buskin & Batteau.
Before their performances began, I had the chance to speak with Kevin and Michael Bacon and Jim Breuer about their decision to perform, supporting service members and what it means to them.
“We’ve always been great supporters of the troops and I think that both of us kind of look at the job that [they] do as one that we can’t do and therefore we’re very, very grateful for that,” Kevin Bacon said. His brother Michael agreed, adding, “Playing music is a great pleasure for us and to come down here and play and do it for a great cause, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Jim Breuer said he found out about the event through a friend and jumped at the chance to join the line-up. “As soon as he said ‘It’s for the troops,’ I said, ‘I’d love to do it. I’d be honored to do it.’”
While it’s clear that the Bacon Brothers and Breuer would deliver very different performances, the roots behind their purpose come from very similar places. Both Kevin and Michael Bacon’s and Jim Breuer’s fathers were World War II veterans who served in the Navy.
Even though they grew up in separate families, the Bacon brothers and Breuer were impacted by the sacrifices their fathers made on behalf of their country.
“[Our father] was in his 30s and never had to go. It was total volunteer; he had two little girls at home and plus, he was also from a Quaker family and he was the first person since his forbearers landed in this country many, many years ago to join the military,” Michael said of his father’s decision to join the Navy during the war.
“It showed a lot of courage, I mean, it really did. You know, he just, he felt like this was something that he had to do. It’s something that he had to help [with] and [he] just kind of walked away from his life without needing to. So, that was certainly inspirational to us and he had a lot of great stories about his life on this giant boat,” Kevin added, clearly touched at the memory of a man he admired greatly.
Jim Breuer’s childhood was also distinctly marked with the effects of WWII. It dramatically touched the lives of both his parents.
“My dad was in WWII. My mom is a widow from her first husband in WWII. I saw both sides, [the service members and the family members]. The soldiers are on the forefront but what people don’t see is the wives, the mom, the sisters, the brothers, the girlfriends and the kids.”
While most people know Breuer as the funny man from 1990s SNL episodes (think Joe Pesci impressions and Goat Boy), he showed a much more touching side as he shared stories of his father who he views as his personal hero.
“My dad is the greatest role model in life in general. I made a documentary about him called “More Than Me” because he said to me my whole life ‘I want you to be more than me,’” Jim explained, referencing a 2008 documentary in which his then 84-year-old father accompanies him on a cross-country comedy tour which the junior Breuer had planned with the sole purpose of bringing joy to his father’s life.
Breuer went on to recall how his father was raised one of 10 children and lost his mother by the age of three-years-old. As an adult, he joined the Navy when the war broke out and spent three years serving in the South Pacific.
“I didn’t understand half the things he’s been through until I started getting older,” Jim said. “He never took that out on me. He was always a great man; never moaned … never complained. [He] always found the lighter side of life. He could have used anything as an excuse, as a crutch to not live life the way he’s supposed to and he never did.”
“He taught me a lot about strength, what’s really important in life, courage, responsibility; that guy taught me everything. And that comes from a guy [who spent] 3 years [in the] South Pacific, gunner, hand-to-hand…he never brought that into anything in my life.”
Jim credits his dad for the man he’s become and makes it a point to honor other veterans whenever he can.
“When I’m in a restaurant and I see a guy with a hat and his hat says ‘Vietnam Vet’ or ‘Korean Vet’ or whatever vet I secretly pay for the bill and whenever I’m with someone I just go, ‘Listen, pay for that guy’s [bill],’” he admitted.
He knows from his own personal experience that veterans, like his father, appreciate small acts of gratitude for their service. Whether these unsuspecting vets know it or not, their sacrifice is anything but lost on someone like Jim.
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