As a retired Army veteran with 20 years of service who continues to work as a mental health counselor with veterans, Maj. Elizabeth Sherr thought the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring Our Heroes' program that has service members work as a roadie at rock shows was a great initiative she wanted to support.
But the fact that the group places applicants at each show by the iconic rock group KISS attracted Sherr even more.
"I kind of grew up with them in the '80s," said Sherr, 42, who for several years was the company coordinator for recruiting in the Lehigh Valley and Schuylkill County area and whose husband, Bill -- who is still active military -- is an Allentown native.
"I loved heavy metal and rock, and just thought they were really cool, with their make-up and stage shows. They're still one of my favorites."
On Thursday, Sherr and her husband were chosen to act as "roadies for a day" for KISS when the band played at Allentown Fair.
Since 2015, the Sherrs have lived at Ft. Campbell, Ky., where Bill -- who like his wife is an Iraq veteran -- is stationed as a troop commander for the 101st Airborne Division. But Bill's parents, Bill and Maureen, remain lifelong Allentown residents, and when Sherr was chosen for the Hiring Out Heroes program, the group suggested she take the Allentown slot.
The program is hiring an active military member or veteran for each of the 32 U.S. concerts on its Freedom to Rock Tour, and through another organization, VetTix.org, is donating tickets to veterans for each show.
KISS founder Paul Stanley said "KISS is celebrating our Freedom To Rock tour this summer; the same freedom that's been upheld by our veterans and active duty service members."
His band co-founder Gene Simmons said in a released that, "we are proud to partner with HOH and Vet Tix to highlight the incredible commitment and sacrifices of hometown heroes. ... Many of these heroes have given a lot -- and some have given all -- and we will honor them in every town we tour."
If being a roadie conjures images of rigging lights and moving massive boxes of equipment, that certainly was happening at the fair during the Sherrs' work shifts Thursday.
But KISS's show is massive: It travels with 11 trucks of equipment and staging, and carries with it a crew of 80, as well as picking up 60 local hands at each stop, said KISS Ambassador (or Roadie Manager) Dean Snowden.
Even at that, the show takes eight hours to set up and three to tear down, Snowden said.
That means the show has plenty of skilled workers on stage. About 30 hummed about the fair's stage late Thursday morning, pulling cables, hoisting light fixtures, and even wiping guitars and inserting picks into their faceplates.
That left the Sherrs working with merchandise -- unpacking items such as license plates, commemorative tickets, cans of picks and more -- and stuffing swag bags for people who paid premiums of up to $1,200 for ultimate VIP experiences.
Later, they were to help with a short acoustic performance, meet-and-greet and autograph/photograph session. Then during the show, they were scheduled to come on stage to be paid ("a modest stipend," a Hiring Our Heroes spokesman said), and to display a ceremonial check for the $150,000 donation KISS will give Hiring Our Heroes for the tour.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent also was scheduled to make an onstage presentation to KISS during a five-minute tribute to the military during the show.
"I just thought it would be a 'behind the scenes' experience -- little more than a day at the concert," Sherr said. "A lot of musicians support the military, but the fact that KISS is willing to go the distance and let us be part of the show is incredible."
Snowden, the roadie manager, who works with all of the roadies for a day, said the program offers them "not only an experience, but an appreciation."
"All the feedback I get it that it changes their lives," said Snowden, who's been with KISS 18 years. "Most people don't even have any idea of what goes on at a major tour like this, and all of them, with their great attitudes and great work ethic, come here really wanting to help us out."
Hiring Our Heroes is a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. The Roadie for a Day program helps publicize that work.
"Our military heroes are called upon sometimes at a moment's notice to deploy into harm's way, and they drop everything to respond," said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "It's fitting to honor these men and women in their hometowns as part of the 'Freedom to Rock' tour."
Elizabeth Sherr, a Massachusetts native, joined the Army at 18, right out of high school. Her time in the Lehigh Valley started in 2004 amid the surge in military recruitment to boost troop numbers for the Gulf War activity. She spent time in Jim Thorpe, Walnutport and at a recruitment station in Allentown.
She met her husband, an Allentown Central Catholic grad who was then a mortgage broker, in 2007 through mutual friends. In 2009 he, too, joined the Army, and as she, then he, were deployed to Iraq, their son Macegan, stayed with his grandparents in Allentown.
"It took a lot of people to support us," Sherr said. They had a second son, Gavin, in 2011, and she retired as active military in 2012. Her son Alex from an earlier relationship also has joined the Army.
"So I'm glad that this supports veterans organizations. But KISS, that's what made this an amazing event." ___
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