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Oklahoma veterans say Toby Keith always showed up for them — even overseas

By Kolby Terrell

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    OKLAHOMA (KOCO) — As music fans continue to mourn the loss of country star Toby Keith, veterans in Oklahoma said he meant even more to them.

“In 2006, he come out and did a live concert,” said veteran Dylon Sisson. “It was a big morale boost for us as a soldier, airmen and Marines that was out there for sure.”

Oklahoma veterans said Keith’s death brought memories back of their time in service.

“That pumped us up as soldiers for us to go out and do our job better. That we had someone in the music world that kind of understood where we were coming from, what we had to go through day to day,” Sisson said.

The Heart of a Lion Foundation, a veterans’ organization, said the singer’s love for veterans was evident in the way he poured into their families.

“Did a lot of fundraising together and certainly we always supported the Kids Korral,” said Ret. Maj. Ed Pulido, a veteran and CEO of the Heart of a Lion Foundation.

Some said Keith interacted with them so much that they got to know him personally.

“We’re sitting there on the bench, and I told Toby, I said, ‘Hey, it looks like I’m getting ready to go to Afghanistan. You going to come over there and play for us if I go?’ And he says, ‘I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I promise,'” said Ret. MSgt. Aaron Sloan, a veteran. “And, lo and behold, Toby brought Ted Nugent. I’m thinking like, ‘Oh my gosh, man!'”

For those who didn’t know him well, they said his music was an inspiration too.

“It meant a lot. Just listen to the lyrics of ‘American Soldier.’ I mean, we were soldiers, of course. Just listen to the lyrics of the song. It kind of made us feel like a musician, artist understood maybe what we were going through to a certain percentage,” Sisson said.

They also talked about the decision by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to fly flags at half-mast for Keith.

“They should,” Sloan said. “The whole family, they’re in our prayers and we will honor them because they will continue to live his legacy.”

“You don’t have to wear the nation’s uniform to be a hero in this world,” Pulido said.

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