Story and photos by Devin Fisher
A free concert and comedy show Feb. 24 entertained the crowd with rhythm and blues, jazz and hip-hop, but unlike most concerts, this show focused on a serious issue.
Part of a 24-installation tour, the I. A.M. Strong event held at Alternate Escapes was designed to raise sexual assault and harassment prevention awareness among Soldiers and military Family members.
“It’s such a shame that something like that is on the rise within our men and women who have taken an important vow to protect their country and then see them disrespect one another … is heartbreaking,” said Leigh Jones, a jazz and R&B artist who headlines the show. “I want everyone to stay safe … be safe while they are out in combat but (also) while they are on the base.”
Antar “CZAR Absolute” Jackson, of the hip-hop group Animate Objects, said he’s proud to be a part of the Army’s I. A.M. Strong campaign.
“It’s not just the Army … trying to talk about the issue … what they are trying to do here is make a cultural shift,” Jackson said. “And they are starting that (with) awareness … (and) hopefully that will turn into action and that action will create that cultural shift they are looking for.”
The Army G-1 presentation, produced by the Army Entertainment Division of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, has received rave reviews at Fort Carson.
“The performers were outstanding and the I. A.M. Strong message was very well received,” said Sarah Falk, Fort Carson sexual assault response coordinator. “The event brought very positive attention to the sexual assault prevention and response program and we were lucky to have them at Fort Carson to raise awareness in a positive setting.”
Jones said she enjoys promoting the I. A.M. Strong message through her music.
“We’re (bringing the message) in a creative environment,” she said. “Hopefully they walk away getting the message, but they don’t feel like they got lectured. Hopefully it’s fun for them … its fun for us.”
Prior to the evening concert, Jones, Jackson and Lakeisha Taylor,
a 2004 “American Idol” Hollywood Week finalist and backup singer on the tour, held a meet-and-greet and autograph session at Wolf Dining Facility and then Jones went to the Soldier and Family Assistance Center for an “unplugged” performance and meet-and-greet with Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Unit.
“It’s so important for us to come here,” Jones said. “(After) the sacrifices they make for us … to be able to give back in just a small way is a blessing.”
Jones said while she enjoys performing for the Soldiers, the opportunity to meet the Soldiers is the rewarding part of the tour that began Jan. 29 and ends March 22.
“What we do is nothing compared to what they do,” she said. “We’re in a new hotel every single day (while on this tour); it is a little bit of a grind, but I would rather be doing this for them than anything else.”
Taylor echoed, “(For me), the biggest thing is meeting them and being able to say thank you for all (the Soldiers) do to protect us.
It is amazing what they do and all the things that they go through being away from their Families, just being away period.”
And the gratitude is reciprocated.
“It just kind of it makes me feel more appreciated about what I do for the country that I love and that
I serve,” said Pvt. Zechariah Scott,
3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
For Staff Sgt. Kelvin Foye, a WTU squad leader, these visits aid his job of helping the wounded warriors heal.
“Soldiers who are going through a healing process need any kind of motivation they can get,” he said. “These Soldiers have been overseas and put their lives on the line … to even know … that somebody understands their plight, what they’ve been through, is very important … and makes my job a lot easier.”
Jones noted she was moved by her first experiences with the Army, singing for WTU Soldiers.
“I cried the entire time,” Jones said. “I was a complete baby, because it’s heartbreaking to see these guys and what they are having to deal with. They are the most cheerful, positive, warm (people) … and it just blows my mind; It really puts life in perspective for me.”