banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

INTERVIEW: ELENIE REESE of Metal Of Honor – June 2015

| 30 June 2015 | Reply

Rock festivals aren’t always about the party and the music… sometimes there are underlying benefits and human interest components to the show or tour.  When you talk traveling rock festival to hard rock and metal fans, the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival comes to mind.  When this tour hits your town (or anywhere near it), one thing to keep in mind is the amount of attention they pay to the active duty and military veterans out there that love rock and metal.  Specifically, in honor of the veterans in the crowd, REDMF presents their Metal Of Honor Program.  As a rocker and veteran myself, I was fully aware of the program, but how many others don’t know the good that comes of this program as it tours the country summer after summer.  I was lucky enough to get Elenie Reese on the phone to discuss the origins of the program, a few of the charities that benefit from the program, and the veterans that can also benefit in one way or another.


Toddstar: Elenie, thank you so much for taking time out for us today. We really appreciate it.

Elenie: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for calling.

Toddstar: The Metal of Honor program, it’s become a major component of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, especially over the last couple of years.

Elenie: Isn’t that awesome? Isn’t that amazing? It’s so cool.

Toddstar: It is awesome, because it’s such a diverse crowd that comes in. You guys are really able to get yourselves in front of some people that you probably wouldn’t normally be in front of.

Elenie: Right.

Toddstar: First of all, please give us a little bit of background on the Metal of Honor Program itself and its origins.

Elenie: Okay, so, it’s actually part of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival. My husband’s the producer of Mayhem Fest, John Reese, and about maybe six or seven years ago when we started it, so many of the bands that are on are so supportive of the military, we kind of just thought with so many military veterans in attendance, we just kind of thought, wow, we should do something with all of this awareness that we can, get exposure with all of the people that are there, and use this platform to do something. So, it started kind of just trying to generate donations. We found some charities that we really loved, and we had an amazing veterans advocate named Steve Robinson. He was just our guiding force behind it. He really helped us, educated us on the real needs of the veterans, especially this generation coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and just the different challenges they faced, whether it was jobs or just coming back into civilian life, PTSD, all kinds of things. So, we started it. He recommended different charities that were doing really great work. Then we just broadened it to we do hometown heroes every night. We have a big tent out in the festival that has all of the different information for the veterans, various charities that offer different forms of support. And for the patrons that aren’t in the military, we get signed memorabilia from different bands that we do a silent auction there. We sell raffle tickets for different things. And all of the veterans, we recognize them and kind of incorporate it more into just fundraising. So, we do a hometown hero every night. Coldcock Whiskey, they get a bunch of great Schecter guitars, and we get them signed by the bands. We do that on the main stage, and it recognizes one veteran who’s recognized as hometown hero. But it’s really recognition to everybody in attendance. All of the military that come to the tent, they get a Metal of Honor bracelet. So, even out in the crowd, how you just said that it’s become so much part of the tour, when the fans, just all of the people in attendance see those wristbands, they know that that’s one of our veterans. They’ll buy him a drink, or let him cut in line, or just all kinds of things to show appreciation. We do the VIP experience options for charity. Just a lot of things.

Toddstar: As an attendee of Mayhem every year, it’s very cool to see. Being a lover of rock music myself, and also being a veteran, it’s kind of cool, because I remember going up and seeing what happened, especially retrospectively, what happened to a lot of veterans coming back from other wars before Desert Storm and the current war.

Elenie: Right.

Toddstar: And to see the musicians actually stand up, take a stand, and show support versus what happened in the past…


Elenie: Well, absolutely, it’s so cool that you say that about wars past, right? So, what we do on our final show is we recognize all of our veterans that are on the tour all summer. So, whether it’s road crew or whoever works on the tour, somebody in catering is a veteran, bus drivers, truck drivers. And how you said about wars past, the most amazing night we have is actually, for me, personally, last year we had some of the bus drivers, and two of them were Vietnam vets, and they said “Oh, no, you don’t have to do that, you don’t have to do that.” And I’m tried to explain, “No, you don’t understand what it is. It’s really great. We recognize the whole crew. It’s not going to be just you.” Afterwards, you see how the crowd really gets involved, and it’s kind of like a highlight. It’s just everybody really gets behind it and cheers for them and thanks them. The bus drivers from the Vietnam generation, they came up to me and were emotional and cried and they said, “You know, in all the years, we’ve never been thanked for our service.” So, it’s a cool thing. That’s a touching part of it, when it’s genuine, and it really hits them.

Toddstar: Well, this year you guys have thrown in a couple new charities, Puppy Rescue Mission and Team Red, White, and Blue. How do you guys pick these different charities? I know originally, like you said, you started with Steve Robinson kind of recommending. Who kind of helps you guys cultivate the list of what charities you guys support and promote on an annual basis?

Elenie: So, we’ve always had The Pathway Home and Hope for the Warriors. The Pathway Home is a residential facility in Napa Valley. It’s for men, and it’s really great. It’s actually in Napa Valley on the VA facility, but it’s independent, but they’ve given them space to kind of watch it and test it, and see its success rate. So, it’s a really important work what they’re doing. That was recommended by Steve Robinson. Also, the Hope for the Warriors is kind of overall family help. And then we have the Puppy Rescue Mission. We try to find things that are obviously necessary in doing the most work with the dollars that they’re getting, and the Puppy Rescue Mission, that one is just something, another sacrifice that people don’t think about. I know I didn’t. These men and women are over there serving in these different war-torn countries, and all of these homeless dogs, like that are common in those kinds of countries, they somehow befriend them. And then they’re over there serving their duty for 8 to 9 months, whatever it may be, and they’ve got to leave that dog behind. It’s just another devastating thing. It was early on. I think it was the first year. Disturbed was our headliner. Dan Donegan, his wife was a big supporter of Puppy Rescue Mission, and so when we were putting all this together, she called me three days before tour. We’d kind of already picked our charities, and she said, “There’s just this really great one that we support, and I hear that we’re doing this Metal of Honor thing on the tour.” So, when we looked at it, it was just amazing.  They’re completely 100% volunteers. Every penny goes to bringing a soldier’s dog home he’s become attached to. The girl that founded it actually, her boyfriend was overseas, and, I’m not sure if he was in Iraq or Afghanistan actually, but as he was getting ready to come home, he was calling her, and he was upset, “Oh my gosh, I can’t leave this dog here. I’m just completely torn up about having to leave this dog that’s provided compassion and normalness during this time.” Also, the dog, right before he had gotten there, these dogs were on the base, and I think there was three of them or something, but a suicide bomber had made his way onto the base, and the dog saved the soldier’s life. So, it’s just another one of those things, the sacrifice that they make that we don’t even think about. The Puppy Rescue Mission is pretty amazing. Then another one that we’re really focusing on this year, I mentioned Steve Robinson and he passed away last year, sadly, and he was the director of veteran’s affairs at Prudential Financial, and he was a Desert Storm veteran. And he was very active, just as an advocate before he got this job. Something he was working on, it’s a charity now called OneMAPS. It’s the word OneMAPS. It’s a tool, it’s a training technique, and it’s an exercise for PTSD. It encompasses a lot of things. OneMAPS is something we’re really focusing on. It’s his brother-in-law that he was working on it with who is also a veteran, and when he passed away, they kind of thought that wasn’t going to happen, but fortunately, Metal of Honor had received an unexpected donation, and that was able to get them completely off the ground. So, we’re really happy with that. And then we also this year have a Steve Robinson Metal of Honor Veteran Scholarship to Musician’s Institute that we’re offering. So, we have lots of cool, new things.

Toddstar: That’s an awesome of military related charities.

Elenie: Every year we come. It’s just great, because he really… It’s funny, when I first met him over the phone, I was all nervous to call him, and try and get his help, and I knew he was such a busy person, and just to kind of convey this idea to him that we wanted to do, that we weren’t doing it to… you see so many charity things in the name of military, right? That aren’t authentic, that are just kind of jumping on it. And so, when I talked to him and kind of told him the idea, right off the bat, he just started talking about how important music is to veterans, especially when they’re going through emotional challenges, and he knew all the bands, and he quoted Dave Draiman lyrics, and how they talked specifically to veterans with PTSD. It was just awesome. So, we just thought that was really appropriate to honor him.  Musician’s Institute has been a sponsor of the tours before, so we thought that would be a really appropriate thing to offer to a veteran each year, for those interested in jumping into a career in music, whether it is the business side or the creative side, or what have you.


Toddstar: That’s an amazing thing that you guys have put together, an amazing program that you put together. And like you said in the beginning, it kind of blends the veterans with the patrons and the performers. To be able to bring that to Mayhem, and bring that across the country in a totally different format that really grabs attention is awesome.

Elenie: Isn’t that great? That gives me chills when you say that, because Steve Robinson said that. He said, “You know, there hasn’t been anything like this. This is like gorilla marketing warfare that you’re doing, and it’s awesome.” Yeah, because it’s unique, and it’s not just to fund raise, and it’s not just to raise awareness, and it’s not just to say thank you. It’s all of it. It’s everything. It’s really cool.

Toddstar: How do veterans make sure that they get in on anything they can get in on? Do they just swing by the set-up, or do they have to log in online? How do we make sure that the veterans go in and get the accolades that they deserve?

Elenie: Yeah, there’s only so much we can do. We really try to push it out on the website and Facebook, everywhere, and press releases, and interviews like this, to go to the Metal of Honor tent, put their name in. Every veteran that comes up, we put them in the raffle, or the pool, what have you, for the hometown hero. They need to go to the Metal of Honor tent. There’s Coldcock is putting up any kind of signings or meet-and-greets that are happening that day. So, they go, they get the bracelets, then they go over to the Coldcock tent, and they see the bracelets. Some years, if we’re able to, through the charities, we’ll set up different meet-and-greets in different cities. We might have a group that comes often when we do Florida, we’re not doing Florida this year, but there’s a Navy Seal group in Florida. It’s actually where they come back, and they’re veterans now, and they’re back civilians usually, kind of coming back into civilian life. And that’s really cool, too, because we did that one year. I think it was Godsmack and Disturbed another year, and some of these dads have been overseas for three years, and this is their first night back, not back home, but that they got to be out with their kids, all have their teenagers with them. And they were just… what a great way to be able to spend time with and take their kids to the concert. They were just so stoked on it. And we had them on the side stage. It’s hard to just have an open “All veterans come over here.” It really just has to be organized. We really do. The Coldcock Whiskey thing is really great right now. Because they’re out in the festival. Our tent is out in the festival. We can just give all the veterans a break, and they can go straight over to the tent for the signings. That’s worked out really great. Then we do, like I said, the charities that we work with have different groups that they support and help, and so we’re able to kind of organize those private meet-and-greets backstage with like 20 or 25 from the group in each city, or in various cities. Then also, we do veteran tickets. I don’t know if you ever heard of them. VETTIX. We offer a bunch of free tickets for veterans through them. So, what’s great about vet tickets is they have to sign up and send in their paperwork that they served in the military. So, they kind of vet everybody, make sure, then they just get on our guest list.

Toddstar: Very cool. Well, I, as a vet, appreciate what you do. I, as a rock fan, appreciate what you do.

Elenie: Are you going to be coming to the Detroit show?

Toddstar: Yes, I am.

Optimized by JPEGmini 0xdb2cdf90

Elenie: I’ll get you in touch with Greg who’s running the event out there on the road. This is the first year I haven’t gone on the road. But Greg’s on the road, and he always works with me, and he runs so many aspects of our different charity things. He’ll make sure, if there’s anything set up specifically that day, we’ll get you in on that for sure. Go and talk with him, and see the Metal of Honor tent. So funny, in San Diego, the first night, one of our volunteers was helping out and all the veterans were doing the raffle, and she says to me, “Oh my gosh, every single veteran that comes up I want to make them the hometown hero. This is so hard.” Having done this before, I could only respond “I know, right?” Because they sit and talk, and they tell their stories, and she was overcome, “Oh my gosh, this is going to be hard when we just pick one.” It’s just awesome. I don’t know. So, it was just really cute to see her right off the bat thinking, “Oh, I didn’t even realize how pulling at my heartstrings this was going to be.” All of our bands are amazing. There’s some that just naturally, for whatever reason, whether they come from military families. You know who was great was Suicide Silence’s lead singer.

Toddstar: Are you referring to Mitch?

Elenie: Mitch Lucker – yes! I just love Mitch. Gosh, one year we were in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and they were just on the cusp, they were just so ready to explode huge, right? So, that day I had a couple wounded warriors as guests from one of our charities, Hope for the Warriors. And the gentleman, the veteran was blind, and he had his friend who was his guide and stuff, and so some of the guys from the various bands are there. Then I saw Mitch come in, and I didn’t really know Mitch yet. And I said, “Can you do me a favor? I have a veteran over here that I’d like you to meet; we’re giving him a special day. He was wounded in Iraq. We’re just trying to give him a great day.” So, I go over and I introduce them, and I’m told them “Okay, I’ll be right back.” I come back around 40 minutes later, because I kept checking, and they were fine, and they were eating and stuff. Mitch was there the whole time. Sometimes people just in general don’t know how to deal with this type of situation. They’re uncomfortable talking to somebody who’s blind or disabled, or what have you. He was there for 45 minutes, and I was just thanked Mitch, “Thank you so much. That was so sweet.” He’s told me, “Oh, I’m a military brat. Every day, I’ll do these every day. Just let me know every day.” Five Finger Death Punch, same way. Disturbed, same way. I mean, everybody’s that way, but some stories just moments stick out. Just were really genuine and unexpected. Yeah, that was great of Mitch.

Toddstar: That speaks to the heart of metal in general. Everybody thinks metal and screaming and yelling, and aggression, and they forget that they’re regular guys with bigger hearts than most.

Elenie: Oh, absolutely. Well, and that’s the thing with the military. Military hits all of our lives; you just never know who’s even of a military family, whether they’re in the military, have served or not. Maybe their dad was. My husband’s father was a paratrooper. My brother was in the Navy. It was a long time ago, and there was no conflict, but it’s just different for everybody’s experience. But yes, it’s cool when it’s just unexpected. That was really an unexpected thing with Mitch. It was just great.

Toddstar: Well, Elenie, I know you’re busy, so we’ll let you go. But, again, thank you for all you do. Thank you for doing this year in, year out, and making this such an important part of the day for all the families that go out and hit Rockstar. And we hope to see in Detroit at Mayhem, maybe next year.

Elenie: Yeah, I love Detroit. Oh my god, that’s a great venue in Detroit, too. There’s a little lake off the side in the backstage. So, yeah, I love it there. It was nice talking to you, and I will text you Greg’s number, so that you have it. And I’ll give you his email, so you can just kind of touch base with him before you get there. Then get you whatever kind of passes if there’s anything special going on that day. All right, awesome. Thank you so much.

Toddstar: Awesome. Alright. Thanks a lot.

Elenie: Okay, bye.










Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad