ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
“I had just finished performing and this Green Beret, Special Forces guy, all bearded up, came up to me afterwards. He grabbed his ranger tab and Special Forces tab, and he threw it at me.”
The performer thought he had offended the Green Beret, that he did something wrong during his performance.
“He had this stoic look on his face, and he said ‘I just wanted to let you know you saved my life tonight,’” explained Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Carson, lead singer and superintendent of Max Impact, the Air Force’s premier rock band.
When asked what he was talking about, the soldier replied that he had been deployed for 13 months.
“They just extended me and I miss my family so bad, tonight I wanted to kill myself, I couldn’t take it anymore,” said the Green Beret. “But, then you sang that song by Chris Daughtry, called “Home,” and it made me think of my wife and kids and I can do this.”
“Who would have thought,” Carson said, “that the Air Force Band would be in a combat theater and save a life through music.”
Raised in Rapid City, Carson got his start in music as a male soprano singing in the Rapid City children’s choir. From there, he pursued higher education and got his degree in music performance from the University of Wyoming.
“The mission of the band is to honor our veterans, inspire patriotism, and impact the globe,” Carson said. “I think when you honor our veterans and inspire patriotism, it raises morale.”
During his deployments, Carson has seen how his band and their music affects the audience, from 90-year-old men wanting to do push-ups during the
Marine Corps song to service member’s high-fiving when they leave the venue.
“When you’re deployed, it’s easy to forget why you’re there because of the daily grind many refer to as Groundhog Day,’” Carson added. “But you go [to a concert] and you get a little shot of home, and a boost in your step. [You] refocus and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
“People think oh, he’s got an easy job. Wrong,” said Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) James Carson, Ryan Carson’s father. “It is a very taxing job on Ryan – however, I am proud that he is total Joe Air Force like I was. He gets to see parts of the world that others don’t want to see.”
One way James Carson supported his son was by declining orders and a promotion to chief master sergeant so Ryan Carson could pursue music as a career.
“Music has always been a part of my life, and it is a privilege to be a part of the Air Force and the band,” Ryan Carson stated. “He talks about respecting those serving, but he won’t talk about how he was one of the 12 outstanding Airmen of the year or that he turned down stripes. My desire is to be promoted to chief someday, not for me, but for him and all the Airmen like him who sacrifice so much for others.”
The Air Force Band is also celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2017, much like Ellsworth, and Ryan Carson is taking the opportunity this year to remember the impact the unit, and the music it creates, can have on his fellow Airmen.