Contemporary Issues, an organization that holds diverse presentations for the students of WCU, invited Keni Thomas, a popular country singer and war hero to speak to the students of WCU on Tuesday, Nov. 27. Despite the small turnout of interested students, the presentation and vocal performance Thomas gave was not to be missed. Titled “Flags of Our Fathers: A Soldier’s Story,” Thomas described his experiences as an Army Ranger, his later formation of a band, becoming a song writer and his role as a motivational speaker. As a veteran, many of Thomas’s songs are a reference to his past military experience, but certainly not all. Thomas’s genre is country, with each song telling a different story than the next. His songs are not something to just passively listen to; each song tells of a story, a love, a heartbreak or a creative joke that immediately pulls in his listeners.
His secret is his lyrics and melodies. According to Thomas, the lyrics in every single song should have a meaning. “When you get on that stage, you better have something to say,” said Thomas when expressing his job as a songwriter and singer. “Music can touch you in ways the other arts cannot.it’s ethereal.” Indeed, after the conclusion of every song Thomas sang, he paused to tell the audience the meaning of the song and how he came up with the idea.
Many of the songs were Thomas’ favorites and others that had the most meaning to him. “Hero” tells of a 21-year-old man who wanted to fight for his country but his mother could not stand the thought of losing her “little boy.”
Another, “Fight I Couldn’t Win” expresses vocally how a soldier in combat couldn’t save a fellow soldier on the battlefield. The song “Not Me” was also sung with military references about volunteering when you’d rather not.
When writing songs, Thomas is inspired by life in the military and those men and women who serve our country.
Not all of Thomas’s songs are laced with patriotism; songs of faith, fathers, family and even a song about Mexico were performed. Thomas also has a musical side that fans normally do not see – along with guitar, he loves to play the piano. A couple of his songs, some untitled, one called “Seven Days” worked perfectly with his country voice and soul. He could easily be compared to a country version of Elton John without the glasses.
Besides being a singer and war hero, Thomas even finds the time to be influential humanitarian. Thomas is the founder of Hero Fund, a fund that was started to raise awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). SOWF was founded to provide scholarship and grants in education for children displaced by consequences of war. The foundation is currently committed to helping over 600 students through college, and this number is growing. Because of Thomas’s aid with the Hero Fund, SOWF was able to previously raise the number of students the foundation could help along with the amount of money the foundation can give.
Also, Thomas routinely visits Iraq and Afghanistan to sing and bring pride to those soldiers at war. After each concert, Thomas greets and talks to each and every soldier that was in attendance at the concert, which is normally sold-out.
Thomas not only is a great singer and songwriter, he also has a great personality. He continued to tell the audience how grateful he was to sing to for them and how blessed he was to perform for his fans.
He made it a point to circle the room and shake hands with everyone who attended the presentation. Thomas also has great stage presence. He not only smiled the entire night, but led the night into humor while never losing sight of why he sings today – many of his closest companions are still fighting.
Derek Ansel is a second-year majoring in cell and molecular biology, with a minor in psychology. He can be reached at DA633313@wcupa.edu.