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A little help for our friends

Joe Walsh brings VetsAid 2018 to Tacoma

Joe Walsh during VetsAid 2017. Photo credit: VetsAid/Facebook

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Solo artist, Eagle and quintuple Grammy winner Joe Walsh, brings the second of his annual benefit concert events, VetsAid, to Tacoma Dome this Veterans Day. Proceeds benefit military veterans through at least 19 different organizations, from national groups like Hire Heroes USA and Stop Soldier Suicide to grassroots efforts Arkansas Run for the Fallen and Salmon for Soldiers. Walsh's father, Lt. Robert Newton Fidler, was a flight instructor who died in Okinawa when Walsh was 20 months old. VetsAid 2018 boasts full sets from HAIM, Don Henley, Chris Stapleton, James Taylor and Walsh himself, emceed by Drew Carey. Ringo Starr will make a special guest appearance, culminating, Walsh promises, in a historic group performance of "With a Little Help From My Friends." Starr is, in fact, Walsh's brother-in-law. "Be careful what you pray for," Walsh joked, laughing.

"I spent a lot of my childhood without a dad," Walsh recalled, "and I didn't have anybody to go fishing with or play catch with or any of that. And although I never really knew him, I know the pain. It's just an awful feeling. ... Part of you is missing, so I'm real resonant with Gold Star families." When soldiers of that era came back from war, Walsh said, "They just plain didn't talk about it. There was no vehicle for that." Later, as Walsh was entering college, the draft called again. "A lot of my high school buddies went right to Nam, and they came back different." He ran into one of those veterans at a recent show. "He's physically just a wreck from exposure to Agent Orange, all that stuff. ... He really needs help just to walk." Asked whether the situation has improved for warriors returning from the Middle East, Walsh considers, then replied in the negative: "I just can't conceive, if this country decides to go to war and Congress approves a budget, why nobody thinks about after the war when people come home. I guess there's more awareness, and Wounded Warrior (Project) has done a lot, ... but the problem is it's a forgotten war. There's nothing about it on the media. The government doesn't go near it, and we are at war. We're in full-on combat every day."

Walsh modeled VetsAid 2017 on Willie Nelson's Farm Aid series but admitted, "It was a real learning thing, and we learned mostly what not to do." Even so, it yielded some $400,000 in donations to grateful veterans-aid organizations. This year's concert is preceded by a job fair, "Operation: GoodJobs," from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Goodwill Milgard Work Opportunity Center, 714 S. 27th St., Tacoma. Walsh will also visit soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. "Bein' that my dad was Army Air Force," he said, "they thought it would be nice to show me some of the Air Force operations."

What VetsAid strives to build, Walsh explained, is "a community of people who come to these and meet other people, other vets, other Gold Star kids and families, and find out that they're not alone. And if they can bond and start a friendship from this, I think a big part of healing is coming together and realizing you're not alone. ... This is not a political deal. This is just taking care of our own."

VetsAid will be this year's standout musical performance in the Pacific Northwest, and all active and retired military personnel and their families are eligible for discounted tickets.

VETSAID 2018, 6 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11, Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma, $25-$155, 800.745.3000

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