GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- Sailors at Naval Station Great Lakes filled historic Ross Field for an evening concert Aug. 10, by Academy Award-winner actor and musician Billy Bob Thornton and his band the Boxmasters.
The artists performed as part of the Spirit of America Tour, which has entertained military members and their families throughout the country since 2002.
"We enjoy performing with Spirit of America, because we support the troops," said Thornton. "It is an amazing thing to do. We usually have more fun on the military bases than any where else."
The Boxmasters' sound is modbilly rock 'n roll, combining the influence of the Beatles fused with artists such as Johnny Cash and Buck Owens. The band appeared on stage in early vintage 1960s fashion with black suits and mint green guitars. After a short intermission, the band switched genres to more classic rock format featuring songs from Billy Ray Thornton's solo albums as Thornton sported a sleeveless Navy T-shirt.
"I am enjoying the show. I didn't know [Thornton] was a musician, just an actor. I think it is great when they come here and perform for the troops," said Electronics Technical 3rd Class (SS) Nick Penick.
The Spirit of America Tour is a project of the Robert and Nina Rosenthal Foundation. The tour was founded by Robert Rosenthal, a retired lawyer, in 2001 to bring musical talent to troops stateside. Since its inception, the organization has arranged more than 90 shows at America's military bases. In 2003, the Spirit of America Tour presented the Charlie Daniels Band to 10,000 recruits at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes.
"Naval Station Great Lakes is one of my favorite places to visit because when I look at the faces of the Navy's newest Sailors, I know America is in the best of hands," Rosenthal said.
Thornton told the Sailors about his father, Bill Ray Thornton, who served in the Navy during the Korean War.
"My Father was a Navy fireman, he was on a cruiser and destroyer. He was wounded in the Korean War and he reminded me of it almost every day," Thornton said.
Following the concert the band participated in a nearly two-hour "meet and greet" where Sailors had an opportunity to meet the performers and have autographs signed.
For more news from Naval Service Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.