Members of the U.S. Air Forces Central's band, Wild Blue Country, stand with the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mr. James Smith and his wife Dr. Breslin-Smith after the National Day Celebration which hosted over 1,000 dignitaries from around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley)
by Master Sgt. Karl Bradley
AFCENT Band Operations/Logistics Representative
4/11/2011 - RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- How do you celebrate America's independence openly in a foreign country?
Not only can it be done, but it can be done in style as the Air Forces Central band, Wild Blue Country, proved recently.
They performed on request from the American Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mr. James Smith, and his wife, Dr. Breslin-Smith, at the embassy's Independence Day-themed National Day celebration. The celebration is held each year in the spring due to very hot conditions in July.
"It was great to know we could provide exactly what they needed for a 4th of July type of event," said Tech. Sgt. Jeff Valentine, steel guitarist for the band. "The Ambassador and his wife even picked out some tunes to make it even more special for everyone."
The U.S. Embassy is located in the capital city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is a busy modern city with a population of more than 500,000 and is home to the second largest construction project in the world with ancient roots that run deep.
Master Sgt. Damian Spaitz, Operations NCO of the Riyadh Defense Attache Office said, "This city has a ton of energy but it gets quiet five times a day after the call to prayer. It's very different from the U.S. where we identify ourselves as Americans first. They identify with their religion first and nationality second. That takes a little getting used to."
The crowd of more than 1,100 invited guests mingled while dining on food from various U.S. regions. After playing a little mood music for the first part of the evening, Wild Blue Country paused as Ambassador Smith invited honored guests to join him on stage. He then spoke of his emphasis of "Opening Doors" to benefit both nations in this rapidly changing world.
The distinguished guest of honor for the evening was the Deputy Governor of Riyadh, Prince Sattam bin Abdul-Aziz. He was introduced from stage and later given the latest Wild Blue Country CD and replied, "Thank you so much for this great gift from your country. I love the music."
After the Ambassador spoke, Wild Blue Country picked up the pace with selections chosen by the Ambassador and his wife. The crowd then danced to some classic country and music from the 60's.
The Ambassador threw an after-party soiree for those who helped make the night a success.
"I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate you guys making the effort to come," he said to the band members during a quiet moment in his living room. "You are all great Ambassador's (for the U.S.)"