NORFOLK, Va. — Garth Brooks made a lot of friends in high places Wednesday night, performing live before thousands of sailors on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier that launched the earliest airstrikes against Afghanistan.
Sailors in dress uniform crowded the flight deck of the Enterprise, cheering wildly when the country singer appeared on a stage bathed in bright lights and flanked by two F-14 Tomcats and two F/A-18 Hornets.
About 2,000 fans in the bleachers and an additional 6,000 standing in front of the stage waved American flags as Brooks, the son of a Marine, played his first song, "Callin' Baton Rouge."
"You'll never understand what an honor it is to be here tonight and get to play our music," Brooks told the crowd.
Grateful sailors called the concert a great welcome home present.
Airman Benjamin West, 21, of Tarboro, N.C., huddled under a blanket on the bleachers with his girlfriend, Evelyn Barnette, 25. They arrived several hours early to make sure they got good seats.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Russell Morse, 36, of Chesapeake, said the concert was especially meaningful to him because it fell on the 17th birthday of his oldest son, Jeffrey, who joined him at the concert along with the rest of the family and a group of friends.
"This [concert] is a great relaxing point for me," said Morse, a crew member from the Ponce, an amphibious ship that is part of the Enterprise battle group. "It's wonderful to see everyone from the battle group back together again, having a good time and watching Garth Brooks."