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Channelside holds free concert with former Army Ranger

by Staff Sgt Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor

Keni Thomas, a former Army Ranger whose story was featured in the movie “Black Hawk Down,” will hold a free concert at Channelside in downtown Tampa Saturday at 1 p.m.

courtesy photo

Nationally known Nashville recording artist Keni Thomas headlines the entertainment at the Harley-Davidson 5th Anniversary Remembrance Ride concert scheduled for Saturday at the Channelside Entertainment Complex in downtown Tampa.

The concert is free and open to the public, and caps a solemn post-ride commemorative event that starts at 12 p.m. following the annual motorcycle ride to benefit the Gold Shield Foundation and Operation Warm Heart, two very important local Tampa charities serving the families of law enforcement, fire/EMS and military personnel from MacDill. For more details about the benefit ride and the charities, turn to page 10.

Each year, local radio station WQYK-FM brings in nationally known recording artists and this year's headliner could not be a more appropriate choice. Mr. Thomas knows exactly what patriotism and freedom are all about thanks to his time spent in the military. A former Army Ranger and member of the elite Task Force Ranger assault unit, he fought in the Somalia battle recounted in the book and motion picture “Black Hawk Down.” He was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and the combat infantryman's badge.

"If you make it out of a combat situation, you spend the rest of your life being thankful and trying to give back to those who helped you," said Mr. Thomas. "I'm very grateful to have been asked to be a part of this event."

Although he currently lives in Columbus, Ga., Mr. Thomas was raised in Florida where he graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Advertising.

He is a national spokesman for the Hero Fund and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, based here in Tampa, which provides college educations to the children of special ops personnel killed in combat or training. A portion of proceeds from his new CD will go to the Hero Fund.

An impressive list of guest artists came forward to lend their voices on Mr. Thomas' debut album "Flags of Our Fathers - A Soldier's Story." Recorded as a tribute to military troops and their families, the disc is a collection of songs written or co-written by Mr. Thomas that tell the stories inspired by life in the military and by those who serve our nation. The project was produced by five-time Grammy award winning producer, Brent Maher, and noted songwriter, Mark Selby.

"The whole album kind of happened by accident. One out of every 15 songs I wrote had a military theme. My producer suggested putting them all together," he said. "The fact that we had so many guest artists working together seamlessly makes it seem like it was the right thing to do."

Special guest artists on the album include Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris on the poignant top 40 ballad, "Not Me;" Michael McDonald on "7 Days," the unmistakable voice of Kenny Rogers introducing "Circle on the Cross," the signature harmonies of Blackhawk members Henry Paul and Dave Robbins' on, "Gloryland," (co-written by the duo with Thomas and noted tunesmith, Billy Montana); and Shawn Mullins on, "Send Me." The single "Gloryland" is currently rapidly climbing Billboard hot country singles chart.

While the focus of his energy is directed towards his singing career, Mr. Thomas still has a place in his heart for people in the military community, especially those who stay behind when someone gets deployed.

“I know the families have the hardest job in the military but I try to remind them not to worry too much. They need to remember that the people we have over there are highly trained and very good at what they do,” he said, drawing on his experiences while in the Army Rangers. “And for anyone in uniform, do your job and do it well, because we’re counting on you.”

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