ALLEGANY — The Southern Tier Wounded Warrior Benefit Concert provides plenty of summer fun for local residents: live country music, food, drinks and a chance to win autographed sports merchandise.
Most importantly, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patrick Miller noted, it directly benefits wounded and disabled veterans.
“It’s 100% what we’re about,” said Miller, as all of the proceeds from the concerts go toward the Fisher House Foundation and Homes For Our Troops Foundation, two national nonprofits that assist veterans and their families.
Miller’s third annual Southern Tier Wounded Warrior Benefit Concert returns July 27 at Allegany Fireman’s Park. Doors open at 3 p.m. followed by a day of live performances by Meg and Tyler, which features “The Voice” runner-up Meghan Linsey and Tyler Cain, as well as acts like Eric Van Houten and Jack Ellis and the Keepin’ It Country.
The headliner is music icon Montgomery Gentry, known for hits like “Hell Yeah” and “Something To Be Proud Of.” Following the 2017 helicopter crash death of Troy Gentry, the other half of the duo, Eddie Montgomery, continues to tour under the name Montgomery Gentry.
“It’s a pretty big deal in and of itself to get someone that big to come here,” Miller said.
Miller, who recently was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel, has hosted the concerts the last two years in his hometown of Allegany.
The Allegany-Limestone and St. Bonaventure University graduate planned the two previous concerts from about 6,000 miles away in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was stationed at Tripler Army Medical Center. This year he’s been able to plan a little closer to home, as he’s been stationed the last year at Fort Drum near Watertown.
Miller, 37, said it’s important to him to not only raise money for veterans, but to do so with the people of the Southern Tier.
“I’ve been asked, ‘Why don’t you do this in Buffalo or even Syracuse?’” he said. “I want to keep it in Allegany, the town where I’m from and have a lot of pride in.”
The cause is important to Miller as well, as he knows first-hand the work done by the Fisher House Foundation, which provides free housing to military families while their loved ones receive treatment.
Miller’s family received housing from Fisher House while Miller underwent surgeries after being shot during the 2014 mass shooting incident at Fort Hood, Texas.
“They’ll forever hold a special place for me and my family because of the direct support that they provided,” said Miller, who with his wife Ashley now has a nearly 3-year-old daughter, Harper. “What they did for my parents and in-laws and how they just brought them in and gave them all the amenities they needed and took care of them … it’s really incredible and it’s a little unheralded.”
While Miller was able to recover, continue his military career and even receive the Soldier’s Medal, the Army’s highest noncombat honor for valor, he said he knows others are not so fortunate.
That’s why he also feels a connection to the other concert beneficiary, the Homes For Our Troops Foundation. The organization builds and donates specially adapted, custom homes for the severely injured post-9/11 veterans.
“I was lucky and blessed enough not to be wounded during combat,” said Miller, an Iraq War veteran, “but so many friends and peers and people I know either have not returned home, or have returned home disfigured or missing limbs or unable to perform the full physical functions all of us can. I love what that (Homes For Our Troops Foundation) is about.”
A percentage of proceeds from this year’s concert will also go toward some local organizations that help veterans, Miller noted.
This year’s concert will be even more emotional for Miller. His mother, Carole, died in March following battles with multiple sclerosis and cancer. His grandmother, Pauline, also died last month at the age of 91.
Miller said he’ll always remember seeing his mother in the concert crowd two years ago as he was receiving a plaque for being inducted into the New York Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame. His mother had just been released from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center for a bone marrow transplant.
“She looked so frail and weak, but she was there, she was alive and came out,” he said. “Even though the concerts benefit veterans and disabled veterans, it always made me think about my mom and supporting cancer and raising awareness and really inspiring me to continue to do this.”
Presale tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at tickets.com. Tickets are $30 at the door. Children 12 and under get in for free.
Folding lawn chairs are permitted to carry in.