It was going to be the last re-enlistment ceremony Jesse Siordia Jr. would ever plan. So, why not go big?
Ready to re-up for six years after serving 14, the operations specialist second class decided to try and book country music superstar Toby Keith for the gig, hoping to connect with the singer June 16, when Keith’s “Hammer Down” tour rolled through Detroit.
Siordia, a reservist with Navy Operational Support Center Detroit, started sending emails to everything with Keith’s name on it: Websites, record companies, casual dining establishments — “I went after everything I could possibly find,” he said.
No response. The reservist had seen Keith last year in Afghanistan while serving a 10-month hitch as an individual augmentee with a Kabul-based intelligence unit. He had tickets to the Detroit show, figuring that was about as close as he’d get to his favorite musician.
As a “last resort,” though, he emailed Dr. Don Carpenter, host of the morning show on WYCD-FM (“Detroit’s Country”).
“We get so many of these requests. Quite a few of them .. they’re just trying to get a backstage pass,” he said. “This one went against the grain. It was different.”
The good doctor talked to a record-label rep. The record-label rep sounded interested, but didn’t get back with details. The DJ told the sailor not to get his hopes up, but when he put in a follow-up call to the rep days before the concert, the response was simple: “Oh God, yeah, we love this. This is a go.”
“I like to do everything I can for our military,” Keith said in a Radio.com report, “but I have to say, I’ve never done anything like this before.”
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Collins from NOSC Detroit was on hand to make things official. Siordia’s wife, Melissa — who pushed the sailor to reach out to the singer — also was in attendance. The whole thing took about a half-hour — plenty long enough to make a lifelong impression.
“I’ve never had any type of luck like this,” Siordia said. “It was everything I expected and more.”
Siordia even got a bonus: Walking around backstage in his crackerjacks, he bumped into Detroit mainstay Kid Rock. Literally: While the sailor was soaking in the VIP experience, the singer was chatting on his cellphone. Call it a brush with greatness.
“He was on the phone, so it was kind of quick,” Siordia said. “He saw the uniform and shook my hand.”
Siordia, whose full-time job is with a bank in Troy, Mich., served on active duty until 2007 and had targeted a 20-year retirement until he got some good news: He’ll soon be OS1 (SW) Siordia.
“I can push it to 22 [years]now,” he said. “We’ll take it step by step. Take it to 20, see where that takes me. Maybe I’ll make chief and stay in 26.”
That would involve another re-enlistment, which couldn’t possibly be as good as this one was. Although …
Video of the ceremony, taken by the good doctor himself: