FORT RILEY — Major General Joseph M. Martin is the commanding general of Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Division, and after Saturday’s Victory Fest concert on post, he can add supporting vocals to his decorated resume.
He sang “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” live on stage with Charlie Daniels, who was electrifying as ever at 80-years-old.
“I’ve been to combat several times,” Martin said after the performance. “That’s one of the more intimidating things I’ve done.”
Martin was the master of ceremonies for Victory Fest, where thousands of military families, supporters and music fans were on post to help the Big Red One celebrate its 100th birthday.
The day began with an opening ceremony with the national anthem, followed by the USO Show Troupe. After that, Lit, best known for its 1999 hit “My Own Worst Enemy”, was next, followed by The Charlie Daniels Band. Next was The All-American Rejects and The Eli Young Band closed before a fireworks show officially ended the night.
Leon Hernandez was in the crowd with his family, including his young son, who was celebrating his birthday. Herandez is a new Big Red One soldier from Chicago. He said he enjoyed the feeling of togetherness at Victory Fest.
“It’s just great to be a part of something that’s bigger than me,” he said. “The Big Red One was here before me, it will be here after me. It’s just great to be a part of it.”
Col. John Lawrence, the garrison commander of Fort Riley, said it was day of thanks.
“We are all about being one team,” he said. “I did the opening. I had the mayors (of local communities) on stage because it’s important that people understand that we are one team. We’re taking care of each other and having a good time while we’re doing it.”
After each band finished its set, Martin presented them with certificates of appreciation from Fort Riley for their attendance. At the end of Charlie Daniels’ set, he seemingly closed with a passionate rendition of “How Great Thou Art”.
There was one problem, though. He had yet to perform his signature song.
But that was the plan. He and Victory Fest organizers wanted to tease the audience. After presenting Daniels and his band with their certificate, Martin suggested that they’d perhaps forgot about something. With the cue, Daniels’ bow struck his fiddle and the story of Johnny and his musical contest with the Devil began.
But then something happened that, according to Martin, wasn’t the plan.
“It was planned that I was going to ask them to play that last song, but then he said, ‘Do you know the words?'” Martin said. “So I couldn’t leave the stage. I had to take him up on his offer.
“That’s probably on many people’s bucket list and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He’s a great American, a great supporter of our soldiers — just a fantastic day.”
Better yet, Daniels handed Martin his bow just before exiting the stage. Martin said it will be housed and displayed in the division’s headquarters.