American Cowgirls Travel Overseas to Salute Our Troops

Undisclosed Southwest Asia -   Professional rodeo cowgirls and a duet of country singers from Nashville will be heading to undisclosed remote and isolated bases to visit troops this month.  The group features Chenae Shiner Vest, a former Miss Rodeo America and professional cowgirl, Air National Guard Technical Sergeant Trisha Shields, a former Miss Rodeo USA, Air National Guard Technical Sergeant Jenna Smeenk, a former Miss Rodeo Florida and professional barrel racer and the Nashville country music duet of Aubree Bullock and Keenie Word who perform under the stage name ‘The Damsels’. 

The American Cowgirls Tour will spend time with troops in some of our most remote bases allowing the opportunity to meet these professional rodeo athletes and enjoy boot stomping country music while receiving heartfelt thanks from not only the Cowgirls themselves, but the entire western community. 

“We’ve hosted the Wrangler National Patriot Tour for six years through Armed Forces Entertainment on Memorial Day and the feedback is always the same -- outstanding,” says Rob Powers, a veteran and founder of American300 who will be joined by decorated Vietnam wounded warrior Billy Aerts, a legendary musician and co-host for the tour, he adds, “there’s something about cowgirls that is pure Americana ... no other country has iconic cowgirls and our troops really appreciate meeting them wherever we go.” 

Sharing tales from the professional rodeo circuit combined with world class music at night to raise spirits and salute the service and sacrifices that our troops make each and every day --  that's why the American Cowgirls are going to be off their horses for the next several weeks and they wouldn't have it any other way.  

For more in depth information on the Cowgirls visit Armed Forces Entertainment:

For more on American300 visit:

American300 is an all volunteer 501c3 nonprofit which produces resiliency minded base tours for the Department of Defense over 30 times a year.  No federal endorsement of nonprofit or sponsors is ever intended or implied - 

Army Soldiers Share Life Stories with Airmen

Barksdale Air Force -  Resiliency... the ability to rebound; elasticity.  

For nearly a decade the nonprofit American300 has been introducing unique guests to Service Members on bases around the world.  The mission: Share real life human examples of resiliency in an effort to reinforce the comprehensive resiliency teachings presented by the Department of Defense. 

“Some can read books, study computer based training modules and gather the necessary tools to be more adept in dealing with life’s curveballs,” says Robi Powers, founder of the all volunteer effort, “others have to interact with experts first hand to assimilate and learn.” 

With over 400 bases visited to date, American300 has developed its own comprehensive sense of what makes troops tick.  “The concept is simple: put experienced individuals with troops and allow for meaningful exchanges to take place,” says Jesse Stewart, a wounded US Army Ranger who will be visiting Barksdale’s 2nd Bomb Wing Airmen this week, “My story is different from Jen and Shannon’s and that’s what makes the concept of putting real faces on resiliency so effective, there’s multiple real world, real life examples to learn from.” he added. 

Joining Stewart will be Chief Warrant Officer Jennifer Housholder and Shannon Ritch.  

Each has a unique life story, rich in resilient behavior. “Jesse ( Stewart ) got blown up several times, that’s not my story at all,” says Housholder, who after two deployments to the middle east found herself face to face with severe post traumatic stress, “As a DoD certified ‘Master Resiliency Trainer’ I can say with certainty that American300’s approach and Major Command’s that take advantage of it are helping to bridge the gap in understanding.” she added. 

With guests ranging from Tom Whittaker, the first amputee to summit Mount Everest to Major General Edward Mechenbier, a USAF fighter pilot that spent nearly 6 of his 44 plus years of duty in P.O.W. camps in Vietnam, there’s never a shortage of unique and valued guests. Currently the nonprofit has over 100 mentor volunteers. 

For the third guest traveling to Barksdale, Shannon Ritch, bouncing back took on a whole new meaning when he was medically discharged from the Army.  Instead of quitting, Ritch went on to become a mixed martial arts world champion.  On top of that he continued to serve his country as a protective security duty specialist for the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials in Baghdad, Iraq for several years. 

“We’re in our 5th year of programming with Air Force Global Strike Command and Barksdale Air Force Base’s 2nd Bomb Wing,” says Powers, adding “ it’s been a fantastic opportunity for Airmen to meet amazing guests who come to share their personal stories of flexibility, adaptability and most importantly the ability to bounce back and grow stronger.” 

For more information visit: 

American300 is an all volunteer 501c3 nonprofit effort.  No federal endorsement of nonprofit is implied or intended - 

Astronauts Bring Message of Teamwork to Remote Bases

American300 Public Affairs  8/1/15
Andrews Air Force Base -  Armed Forces Entertainment has teamed with American300 once again to bring NASA Astronauts to the Troops this summer.  This will mark the 6th time that American300 has worked with NASA to place Astronauts with service members serving in remote and isolated locations around the world. 

"We started with Astronaut Sandy Magnus back in 2009 and have had Air Force Colonel Mike Hopkins and Dr. Steve Swanson out on several tours as well," said Robi Powers, founder of American300 and the host of the nonprofits military tours. " Expedition Astronauts all have incredible 'never quit' stories of service and sacrifice and it's these stories that I think our Troops relate to the most, plus who doesn't want to meet and hang out with a person that's been in space." he added jokingly. 

For Combat Navy Pilot and NASA Astronaut Captain Berry 'Butch' Wilmore, the tour is going to put him back with fellow uniformed service members.  Captain Wilmore has traveled to space 3 times and will share these experiences along with his decorated combat fighter pilot service years with troops at: Thule Air Base, US Naval Station GTMO, Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen and Sector San Juan. Joining the Naval Aviator will be Rick Mastracchio, a 25 year veteran of NASA, who has spent over 228 days outside of the earths atmosphere on 4 different space expeditions. 

Dedication to teamwork no matter how difficult the task is one of the bedrock principles of space flight and life on the international space station, where both Captain Wilmore and Rick Mastracchio have spent so much of their time in space. "You can't survive for 6 months in space as a soloist, it's teamwork all the way." says Dr Steve Swanson, who has traveled with Powers and American300 on 3 troop tours to date. 

It's real life stories backed by individuals who have 'been there and done that' in one shape or form that American300 programming is all about.  Instead of all hands presentations followed by quick meet and greets, Armed Forces Entertainment works with American300 and local commands to allow American300 guests to experience 'day in the life of' daily routines on the various bases.   From early morning unit physical training to night shift work, the Astronauts will work along side service members allowing for a natural and relaxed exchange on connection. 

"Our mission isn't rooted in entertainment, so having the Department of Defenses entertainment A team switching gears and sponsoring our tours is a real plus," says Major Jesse Stewart, a US Army Ranger Wounded Warrior, who mentors for the nonprofit and serves as a board member.  He adds, "Armed Forces Entertainment allows our programming to push out to some of the most remote bases in the world, which then allows us to focus our 25+ other tours on bases that are closer to home."

Powers, who has served as a tour leader and host for well over 400 base visits since 2006, says Astronauts and Troops go together perfectly. "Our last visit to Thule Air Base in February involved 2 Wounded Warriors and an Olympic medalist, now I'm headed back to the top of the world with Astronauts who actually have benefited from the space object detection and tracking work that the Airmen conduct as part of their overall mission at Thule Air Base.  That's 5 different 'resiliency' (American300 avoids using that word whenever possible) rich life stories that are being shared with service members stationed at the most remote base in the world.  To me that shows a level of commitment on Armed Forces Entertainment's part to keep things real... I mean we're not going to be putting on a comedy act while we're up there or down in the caribbean islands with these guys." 

While this tour isn't going to be launching anyone into space, it will be bringing together two amazing groups of individuals who share so much in common - duty, dedication, sacrifice and commitment... delivered on a daily basis through teamwork. 

To follow the tour on a daily basis visit American300 Tours on facebook. 

For more on Armed Forces Entertainment go to:

Detailed biographies and more can be found at:

American300 is an all volunteer 501c3 with a mission of supporting the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and Department of State's resiliency program initiatives. No federal endorsement of nonprofit or sponsors is ever implied or intended -

Wounded Marine Visits Ketchikan with American300 Tours

Story by American300 Public Affairs - 7/25/15
Sal Gonzalez, couldn’t take his eyes off the casket of his good friend. It wasn’t the first of his friends to be put to rest with military honors, nor would it be the last.  But, this ceremony was unique.  Sal had placed his own purple heart on his friends casket and soon the two would be lowered into the ground.  

With the brass notes from Taps still echoing off distant tombstones Sal, felt once again like it should be his remains being lowered into the ground and his family members and friends mourning. 

Instead, as the service ended Sal did what he’d done countless other times, he went home and found the biggest bottle of whiskey he could get his hands on and started drinking.  Later that night, sitting alone on the front porch of his house, he cursed at God and everyone on the planet. With not more then an inch of sloshing brown liquid in the bottom of the bottle he found himself reflecting. 

“What would my friend think of my pathetic existence, drinking my life away because I lost my leg and lieutenant and felt sorry for myself, my buddy is gone, his life and dreams are gone...  his goal of a wife and kids, two cars and a white picket fence are gone.” 

As a young east Los Angeles, California first generation Mexican American Sal had been drawn to music.  At an early age he’d ‘borrowed’ a guitar and taught himself how to play.  As the trade towers crumbled on 9/11 he knew he’d join the Marine Corps. A few years later he did just that... dragging an old beat up guitar along for the Marine Corps ride to the middle east and a city called Ramadi, in a country called Iraq.  

“Country music wasn’t my neighborhoods favorite boom box selection, but my Marine brothers loved it so I learned it.  I had no desire to become a country music artist," says Sal, "...but I knew it made my brothers happy and that was what it was all about... taking care of my brothers.” 

Years later after that night of self destruction following his friends funeral service, Sal came up with a plan.  He’d pack a bag and head to the capital of country music, Nashville Tennessee and give country music a try. 

“I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, my family and friends thought I was crazy, but something told me it was the right thing to do.” he added.  

It didn’t take long for Sal to make friends in Nashville and within months he started getting invitations to play in clubs and at special Veteran’s events.  His dream of making a go of it in country music was taking shape. The only problem: the nightmares and heartache were still haunting him. 

Then one day he received a phone call from Lieutenant Colonel Mike Carrado, of the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment.  The LTC had been asked to go on an American300 Tour to Afghanistan with several wounded Marines, but couldn’t due to his role as the Regiment’s executive officer.  What Carrado did know was that Sal Gonzalez needed to meet Robi Powers, the founder of American300 Warrior Tours. 

That one phone call started a chain reaction that has brought Sal and Robi, to some of the most remote military bases in the world.  “Sal was pulling it together, he just needed a mission beyond entertaining people... he needed to be back with his own,” says Powers, adding, “all we did was provide an outlet of service to this wounded Marine, gave him a mission set that he could embrace.  His story is one not unlike thousands of others, but the way Sal is able to incorporate music into his personal life story is truly unique and very powerful... troops, families and communities just love meeting him and listening to him play, sing and share his stories.”

From Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan to the northern tip of Greenland just shy of the north pole and countless days on US Bases here at home... Sal has been sharing his personal story of recovery and personal growth with thousands of fellow service members and the communities that support them as part of American300’s mission to reinforce growth.

Today, Sal works as a spokesperson for another nonprofit: Wounded Warrior Project and volunteers his time openly to American300 Tours, the nonprofit that opened the door to something new for the wounded Marine back in 2012. 
  • Free Community Event- Sal Gonzalez will be performing live at the Arctic Bar on Thursday, July 30th at 9pm.  There is no cover charge and he’ll play as long as everyone is having a great time!  Semper Fidelis 
About American300 - the all volunteer nonprofit 501c3 was created by Army Veteran Robi Powers as a way of supporting the Department of Defense.  To date American300 has conducted over 450 base visits with special guests like Gonzalez.  Each tour provides a glimpse at how life’s ups and downs can be overcome and how even in the face of complete adversity individuals can overcome life’s obstacles.  

For more on American300 Tours visit: 

Everest Expedition Leader to Visit U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria

American300 Public Affairs - 7/10/15
Hohenfels Germany -  American300 returns to U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Hohenfels, this month with high altitude expedition leader Chris Klinke.  

“Our goal is to bring likable, relevant and relatable guests to units and allow for quality interactions to occur.” says Major Jesse Stuart a retired Army Ranger and Wounded Warrior, who serves as a board member with the nonprofit, “What Chris has done in the mountains with teams of climbers is nothing short of amazing, being a leader responsible for the lives of others is completely in line with what our Service Members experience on a daily basis.”  

Hohenfels Military Community is home to the U.S. Army Joint Multinational Readiness Center, located just north of Munich, Germany.  With an operational calendar which is never ending, soldiers are training international coalition forces alongside American Troops throughout the year.  Key elements to successfully training soldiers aren’t all that different then those which make high altitude expeditions successful.

For Klinke, achieving success in the mountains boils down to mental toughness.  Other factors such as physical, logistics, individual and team skill and even luck with mother nature all play into the equation, but mental stamina is where he points his finger most often when talking about successful missions.  “If you don’t have the physical skills and logistics wired you don’t belong on the mountain to begin with.” 

The similarities between the climbing world and our military have been recognized by the military for decades.  So similar are the two that the USMC created the mountain leadership course to utilize compartmentalized terrain movement and high altitude environs together in an effort to push leadership practices to a whole new level... extreme, many years ago. 

“Chris has stood on top of the world’s tallest peaks and done so most often as a leader rather then follower.  His dedication to teamwork in the mountains is in line with that of our service members.” says Robi Powers, founder of American300 who will travel to Hohenfels with Klinke. 

While this will be Klinke’s first visit to US Army Garrison Bavaria, it’s not his first American300 Tour.  “My experiences with visiting the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center two years ago gave me a heightened awareness and appreciation for the sacrifices our military make for us everyday,” says Klinke, adding, “One night I was sitting around a squad’s campfire surrounded by snow caves high in the mountains and we delved into a discussion about the friends we’ve all lost. The similarities between those Marine Snipers and the mountaineering community are extraordinary in size and scope of people involved.  The difference being that the sacrifices made in the military far outweigh any in the civilian world.” 

Bringing together individuals with amazing backgrounds and allowing them to connect on a personal level is the bedrock of American300 programming.   In the case of Chris Klinke, Soldiers will have the opportunity to not only catch a glimpse of what it’s like to operate on the highest slopes on the planet, but to gather valuable life lessons on strategic and tactical decision making.  “ 99% of the accidents that happen in the mountains can be linked back to one or two bad leadership decisions,” says Klinke, adding, “recognizing and respecting the processes goes a long ways towards making better choices in the mountains and in life.” 

more information about American300 Never Quit Tours visit: American300 is a all volunteer nonprofit dedicated to supporting the U.S. Department of Defense's Comprehensive Service Member Fitness Programs.   No federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit is intended or implied - 

American300 Brings Marines and Community Together

Bridgeport/Pickel Meadows, California -   Established just after the Korean War, the United States Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center has been specializing in mountain movement and operations training of U.S. Armed Forces Members for nearly 65 years.  But unlike most Department of Defense military installations, the vast majority of the training areas used by the USMC MWTC are on open public land. 

Three years ago, American300 started bringing unique subject matter experts to the base to interact with instructors and students.  In that time the training center also brought on line the expansion of their animal packing program to now include the DoD's only special operations horsemanship program. 

"We'd been using champion cowboys and cowgirls in our resiliency programming around the world for years," says Robi Powers, founder of American300 adding, " so it was a natural to start bringing world class cowboys and cowgirls onto the base to assist with subject matter expert exchanges with the Animal Packing and SOF Horsemenship instructors and students." 

Beyond the obvious benefits of instructors being able to pick the brains of professional horsemen, American300 also saw an opportunity to assist the base with it's community outreach.  Three years ago the Marines had American300 guests join in the annual July 4th parade in downtown Bridgeport.  

When the community found out they had Hall of Fame World Champion Cowboys coming to town with the Marines, lightbulbs started going off for Marcus Bunn, manager of Centennial Livestock Company and director of the Bridgeport Ranch Rodeo Series with his wife Kim.   

The Bunn's reached out to Powers and together, working with Tony Parkhurst, the manager of the Marines Animal Programming cooked up a 'Dream Team' entry into the annual Bridgeport Ranch Rodeo, considered by the western industry to be one of the best ranch rodeos in the country. "We have our celebrity cowboys and cowgirls pair up with Marines for a no rules no holds barred approach to the various events," says Powers, adding "While our scores don't count, the reception by the true competitors is nothing but welcoming and over the years some great friendships have been formed." 

Three years later the annual gathering of cowboys, Marines and community has taken root. On July 4th each year, rodeo staff and 'Dream Team' contestants can be seen wearing shirts with American300, Wrangler, Centennial Live Stock  Company Ranch Rodeo Series and Marines stitched onto Wrangler George Straight freshly starched white signature shirts. The community of Bridgeport has also come to see the special guests and their Marine hosts as a stronger part of the overall community fabric. 

What stared out with World Champion Hall of Fame Cowboys: John Jones Jr. and Lewis Feild, has expanded to include, Super Bowl Champion Bear Pascoe and Miss Rodeo Florida, Jenna Smeenk, who is a Staff Sergeant in the USAF.   New this year, Marine Corps Veteran turned Hollywood actor Wilford Brimley will be joining the American300 team. 

With a ranching season cut short due to long winters and our Marines focused on training units preparing to deploy constantly, being able to bring the two groups together annually during our nation's birthday has proven to be key in strengthen the overall relationship between the base and township... and who cares if the World Champions and Marines tweak the rules a little during the rodeo... their being involved is mission accomplishment all by itself.

American300 is an all volunteer 501c3 Nonprofit with a mission of supporting the Department of Defense.  No federal endorsement is implied or intended - 

The nonprofit conducts resiliency tours worldwide on a monthly basis, focused on making our service members, their families and the communities in which they live and operate in as collectively positive as possible. 

Olympic Gold Medalist... dream big El Salvador

San Salvador - Since 1925, El Salvador has had an Olympic Committee, in 1938 the organization was recognized by the International Olympic Committee and has been competing in the Olympic Games ever since. 

This week, U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Dan Beery is traveling to the smallest of the Central American countries to share is Olympic Medal and excite the current stable of athletes and get them to focus on dreaming big.   This will mark the second time that Beery, who now lives just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has traveled away from home in the hopes of igniting the fire from within with up and coming Olympic athletes.  

As part the 'ONETEAM' American300 Envoy program he has also visited Turkmenistan.

Sharing the Olympic Spirit and in this case an Olympic medal is all a part of American300's overall mission to encourage communities to come together and grow together.  "We believe strongly that through dialogue and friendship the world will be a better place," says Robi Powers, founder of the nonprofit American300, adding "Dan's road to Olympic stardom wasn't without it's rough edges. Our hope is that the athletes of El Salvador will grow from the experience and realize that they too can achieve the podium someday." 

To date, Olympic podiums have eluded the nation. 

Beery and Powers will be hosted by El Salvador's Olympic Committee President Eduardo Palomo Pacas and staff this week.  The two will visit several teams and participate in the El Salvador Olympic Committee's annual gala as special guests.  "I'm incredibly honored to meet these athletes and Olympic Committee staff members this week, there was a time when if someone had told me I'd be a World and Olympic record holder I would have laughed," says Beery, who now works for an athlete advocate insurance company, adding "with the right dreams and effort anything is possible, I hope that by spending some time with these athletes, coaches and staff I'll be able to show them that anything is possible."

American300 is a NGO/AVO focused on strengthen individuals, families and the communities in which they live and operate.  No federal endorsement is implied or intended.  American300 is a United States nonprofit 501c3 all volunteer organization headquartered at Gries Financial in Cleveland, Ohio.  For more information on American300 please visit: 

Wounded Warrior Meets Future Olympians

Park City, Utah - When Jesse Stewart graduated from college he received two ‘diplomas’. One was a undergraduate degree, the other a commission in the United States Army as an infantry officer.  With degree and commission in hand, Stewart embarked on a career as one of America’s elite special operators.  After completing parachute, air assault, pathfinder and ranger schools he found himself deployed to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.  

This wouldn’t be Stewart’s only deployment. 

Years later with a full medical retirement in hand the now wounded warrior works full time in Colorado Springs, Colorado for the Harris Corporation. 

At this years upcoming United States Ski, Snowboard and Freeskiing Rookie Camp, the retired wounded warrior will be sharing his life experiences with the hopes that our future Olympians will grow in a positive manner from the overall exchange and experience.  

“This will be our 3rd year bringing combat wounded warriors to the USSA Rookie Camp,” says Robi Powers, founder of American300, the organization that has partnered to help facilitate these unique exchanges, adding “The USSA’s core values are nearly identical to those of our US Armed Forces, and bringing in warriors who can share their life stories only helps reinforce with the ski teams new comers that duty, sacrifice and commitment are more then just words on a poster.” 

In return, the USSA has worked with American300 over the past 7 years to encourage national team athletes to make themselves available to the nonprofit for Athlete to Military Base interactions.  To date over a dozen such exchanges have taken place at locations that range from the middle east to the north pole and bases right here at home. 

Bringing world class individuals together to exchange information and experiences provides the framework for what has proven to make this program so successful in the eyes of both USSA and Military officials to date.  “I’m really looking forward to meeting tomorrow’s Olympians,” says Stewart, adding “These athletes personify everything that my fellow warriors and I have sacrificed so much for over the years, I just wish I had 14 of my men still alive... they would have gotten a kick out of seeing the old man trying to keep up with these guys.” 

For more information on American300 Tours visit: 

To learn more about USSA visit:  

American300 is an all volunteer 501c3 organization with a mission of supporting the Department of Defense and Department of State.  No federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit is ever intended or implied -

With Ray Johnston There Are No Bad Days!

American300 Public Affairs - This week the American300 Never Quit Series returns to the home of our 8th Air Force, 2nd Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command Headquarters with country music singer/songwriter Ray Johnston.  To get a better idea who Ray is we’ve shared this fantastic story written by Bill Kelly for 

Story by Bill Kelly 
Ray Johnston made the NBA, beat leukemia and formed a group,  The Ray Johnston Band. Curing cancer and getting a date with Jennifer Aniston are next on his list. Don’t bet against him.  He’s a modern Odysseus whose talents and determination have taken him from an undrafted signee with the Dallas Mavericks to lying in a hospital bed in a four-month coma, and finally landing center stage at a rock concert. His journey has been documented in an HDNet television series and marveled by reporters and supporters alike.

It would be generous to say there are long odds attached to an undrafted player making an NBA roster. Practically, the chances are those of a Mega-Million lottery. After playing in only two college games while at the University of Alabama, Ray couldn’t make the developmental league. “Rightly so,” he says.  Johnston wasn’t on anyone’s list of pro prospects and he knew it.

After college, Ray moved to Dallas and began a successful career as a mortgage broker, focused on career more than athletics.  After joining a local gym where he’d play ball, his focus began to change.  Former Dallas Cowboys Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders saw Ray’s ability when working out and urged him not to turn away from sports. “They gave me a lot of confidence,” Ray says, something that was missing during his college days.

With elite professional athletes cheering him on, Ray entered a local Hoop-It-Up tournament held outside American Airlines Center, the home court of the Dallas Mavericks. Owner Mark Cuban and team President Donnie Walsh saw Ray play and were impressed enough to invite him to try out for the team along with 20 other players.
The higher the level of play, the higher Ray’s game rose. His skills as a point guard where evident as he continually led his pick-up teams to victory during the tryouts. Out of the 20 invited players, only Ray was offered a spot on the team. “I thought I was being Punk’d.” Donnie Nelson told him flat out that he kept looking for a reason to pass him over, “but I couldn’t.” In a competitive environment, Ray had “high confidence, no pressure” and simply played much better when he played aside better players. In the span of a month, he went from selling mortgages to playing against Yao Ming and the Chinese National Team.  He had made the NBA.

In the next several months, he would play with rookies Devon Harris and Josh Howard in summer league camp, making friends and impressing coaches. He was the only player who came to practice five hours early. On a team with Dirk Nowitzski, he was determined to do everything possible to earn a position.
Ray’s maverick world changed very quickly. After bumping shins in a pick-up game, his leg began to swell. Thinking it was a very minor injury, he wasn’t initially concerned. The next day, he found the bruise wouldn’t heal.  His blood wasn’t clotting normally. He began to take things more seriously.  It turned out that his blood was 84% leukemic.

Once diagnosed with cancer, Ray remained in a hospital for four and half months. He was placed in a medically-induced coma from August until November.  It took another three to four weeks to “get his head back.” His mother was determined to make his recovery room as positive as possible. “Upbeat, upbeat” she continually told visitors before they came to see Ray.

Ray believed his parents played a monumental role in his triumph into remission.  “My dad worked hard to be a success” he says. “I was subliminally installed to think I was tough and had to earn my keep.” Though they divorced when Ray was four, his parents both helped prepare and encourage Ray during the difficult treatments and procedures, including the amputation of seven toes. “Cancer strengthened the hell out of my relationship with my parents.”

While his parents bid their influence, Ray’s faith served as more motivation. He had every reason in the world to be down, but was inspired by Proverbs 17:22.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Faith made it possible for Ray to deal with a phobia that had long plagued him but he now needed to face head on: needles. He reached back to basketball and applied the mental preparation to shoot a free throw to the task of taking an injection. “They teach you to do the same thing every time. To shoot, I would dribble three times and place my finger on the air hole. In the hospital, I repeated to myself, ‘Jesus died on the cross three times; you are such a wuss for thinking this hurts.’”

Along with his parents and faith, modern medicine helped save Ray Johnston’s life. At one point in time, Ray had 26 doctors working with him. He took an experimental drug called Tamibarotene that is now in second phase clinical trials.  The sheer number of talented people working with him made Ray want to win – in this case, beat the cancer.
Beating the odds of cancer drove Ray to take on new odds, now that of pursuing a professional career in music. When asked about chances of his being both a professional athlete and a professional musician, Ray responds with measure, “How do I answer that without sounding cocky?”

He points to having a similar support network in the music profession as he did in sports. When he played ball with athletes like Devon Harris and Josh Howard, it elevated his play. He calls his fellow musicians an “NBA All-Star Team of Band Mates.” Steve Jordon, Ray’s producer, has worked with Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder, and John Mayer. Ray seems to attract people willing to work hard for results that are not always certain. He believes he can lead them to success. He’s faced death five times in seven years; the pressures of the music industry don’t really scare him.
With sheer determination supporting each downbeat, The Ray Johnston Band mixes rock, jazz, county, and a little rumba to its performances. Touring the country, the band plays benefit concerts for organizations supporting cancer research. He carries a message to his audiences that is both personal to him and helpful in progressing beyond the pain he and they share.  His music reflects his perspective toward cancer. Upbeat. Confident.

His doctor once told Ray he would have trouble living to age 33. After playing for the Dallas Mavericks, beating back cancer, staging a successful musical career, and fundraising for cancer research, Ray has defied his doctor’s prognosis negative, clearly living a very full life.  He’s still holding out for the date with Jennifer Anniston and a cure for cancer.  He says he’s just getting started with life, and he knows that in an amazing way, his cancer helped get him there.

For more information on American300 please visit: 

American300 is a 501c3 all volunteer nonprofit organization.  No federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit is ever intended or implied - 

Wrangler Cowboys and Cowgirls Continue To Visit Troops on Memorial Day

American300 Public Affairs - 5/16/15 

Undisclosed Middle East -  For the 6th straight year, World Champion Cowboy Kaycee Feild along with other Wrangler Cowboys and Cowgirls are saluting and honoring the service and sacrifices of our Troops throughout the Memorial Day week. 

“I’m so pumped to be returning to an area of operations that we haven’t been in since 2010,” says Kaycee Feild, 4x World Champion Bareback Riding Cowboy, “I’m the lucky Cowboy who gets to represent the entire cowboy community in saying thank you each year, it’s a tremendous honor.” he added. 

Over the years the tour has visited: Kuwait, Iraq, U.A.E., Qatar, Oman, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pacific Commands and Washington and Alaska. This year's tour locations are undisclosed. 

Making it all happen are the dedicated members of the Department of Defense’s Armed Forces Entertainment office who have worked to ensure that the tour is a priority engagement for Troops serving in remote areas of operation on Memorial Day each year. “There aren’t that many signature tours which are sustained from year to year,” says Robi Powers, founder of the nonprofit that works directly with the DoD on a monthly basis year-round producing resiliency minded tours, adding: “It’s a great reflection on Kaycee and the others along with the entire western lifestyle community, that this tour has been a priority for the DoD over the years.”

Focused on saluting service during the hollowed Memorial Day week is an awesome responsibility for Wrangler National Patriot Tour team veterans: Kaycee Feild, Maegan Ridley, Jeff Chadwick, Lucas Hoge and new this year, Brittney Truman and Thomas Becker III.  “These Cowboys and Cowgirls along with Nashville singers are the perfect group for our Troops on Memorial Day week,” says John Bates, a 3x Wounded Warrior who retired as a Colonel from the USMC several years ago. Bates, serves as a co-host for the tour each year along with Army veteran Powers. 

With a motto of ‘Because We’re All Family’ and ample doses of Americana this year’s Armed Forces Entertainment Wrangler National Patriot Tour is certain to be genuine in it’s focus on saluting and honoring our Troops Duty and Sacrifice, something that is much appreciated by our Service Members during the last week of May each year. 

For more on American300 Tours visit: 

To learn more about the DoD Armed Forces Entertainment: 

American300 is a 501c3 all volunteer nonprofit dedicated to supporting the Department of Defense. No federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit is ever intended or implied.  American300 operates on financial support from the DoD and DoS along with private donor contributions - 

Astronauts Don't Go To Space Alone

American300 Public Affairs- by Mike Lane

Armed Forces Bases, Alaska -   Placing special guests on military bases around the world is what our Department of Defense Armed Forces Entertainment office, headquartered at Andrews Air Force Base does on a monthly basis.   The same can be said for the nonprofit  This week the DoD and American300 are teaming up to place a family with
service members stationed in Alaska.  The tour aptly titled:  'American Astronaut Family' will travel to US Coast Guard Stations, Air Force Bases and Stations and Army Bases, throughout the state.

No astronaut goes to space alone. They not only have the full backing of their fellow space comrades, mission control, hundreds of thousands of co-workers; but just as importantly, the love, dedication and support of their family. In Dr Steve Swanson’s case, that transcends state and country boundaries and ages including twin 19-month-old grandsons and up.

Most immediately, we often think of the six person crew aboard the International Space Station as enduring the brunt of hardships of the mission. However, those same daily difficulties apply to those who stay home responsible for keeping the family running financially, emotionally and psychologically. 

Fortunate for Steve, his wife, Mary, a nurse practitioner with the University of Texas Health Science, serves as the backbone of his support group.  She doesn’t do it alone, but relies on their three adult children, Scott, Caroline and Quinn, to round out the home base squad. 
Understanding what their dad is going through plays a vital role in keeping spirits strong on earth and high above. A chief warrant officer in the US Army flying helicopters, Steve’s oldest, Scott, is stationed in Fairbanks, AK, but recently returned himself from a 9-month deployment to Korea.  A mother to twin boys, Caroline holds a degree in computer science similar to her father and understands social and electronic media, a vital link between Expedition 40 commander and the planet.  Rounding out the base crew is Quinn, the youngest sibling, who just started his first year of college and carries the young opened-eye spirit that anything is possible. Beyond their specialties, humor, fun and good-natured spirit complete the package.

Today’s technology including email, social posts, mobile calls and video conference, makes the distance appear smaller, but being away is still difficult for all. Only though a dedicated family support team is the hardship lessened and the Swanson clan understands firsthand what our military families are challenged with on a daily basis.

Armed Forces Entertainment and American300 are honored to showcase this family and provide opportunities of military families to meet and share with the Swanson's.   In addition to visiting units, local units have also scheduled several elementary and high school visits where students will be afforded the opportunity to learn about space and meet the Astronaut and his family.    

For more information visit:

American300 is a non-government organization.  The nonprofit 501c3 all volunteer organization is managed by Army Veteran Robi Powers, of Colorado who serves as a host to over 30 unique resiliency minded tours per year.  No federal endorsement is intended or implied - 

Vietnam POW shares story once again with American300 Tours

4/13/15 - 21st SPACE WING -  This week Major General Edward Mechenbier, USAF/POW joins the American300 effort once again in supporting our Airmen at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Peterson Air Force Base.  So many stories have been written about the General that instead of creating yet another, we thought we'd share this one from a previous tour: 

Story by 341MW PAO - by A1C Collin Schmidt 

9/26/2013 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The American300 tour visited Malmstrom Air Force Base once again Sept. 19. For this visit, the tour brought along a special guest who served as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War and was shot down resulting in a six-year imprisonment at the Hoa Lo Prison, better known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Edward Mechenbier had his share of struggles throughout his military career. For the majority of the time he was held captive, he survived on less than 800 calories a day. The cell he lived in was 7 feet long by 9 feet wide and he shared it with one other inmate.

"Being held at the Hanoi Hilton was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to go through," said Mechenbier. "Even with my time spent in captivity I returned to a normal life. I picked up where I left off, but I still think about the ones who weren't so fortunate. I am glad to be able to share my story with the men and women here and I hope it shows people that no matter what obstacles you may face, you can still overcome and push forward."

The American300 tour's mission is to help instill a "never quit" attitude in service members. Every American300 tour visit brings a new person who has had to overcome tremendous obstacles in order to achieve their goals. Whether it be in sports or combat, the men and women who share their time with the Airmen of Malmstrom always have a story to tell and a message to show that nothing is too difficult to achieve.

Mechenbier's story is about keeping hope and building a resilience in the hard times that can never be broken.

"I have a passion for the people who dedicate their life to defending our country," Mechenbier said. "I was once a young man ready to take on anything. Through the years, I have learned that there will be times when you need a Wingman, when you need someone who can help you through a difficult time in your life. I have also learned that you need to have tough skin and be mentally ready for anything.

"On June 14, 1967, I was shot down during a strike mission on the northeast railroad near Kep [Vietnam]," he added. "I ended up landing on the roof of a building after ejecting from my aircraft and spent five years, eight months and four days in captivity, but who's counting. When I ejected, and during my time in captivity, I suffered crushed vertebrae, broken teeth and dislocated both of my shoulders, so I do know what it feels like to be in pain. Even with all that I have been through, I still consider myself one of the lucky ones."

Machenbier was awarded two Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Meritorious Service Medal, nine Air Medals, two Silver Stars and the Prisoner of War Medal for his service and time in captivity during the Vietnam War.

After separating from the active-duty Air Force in June of 1975 he went on to fly the F-100 and A-7 aircraft for the Air National Guard. He eventually retired from the ANG in 2004 as a major general.

"I want you men and women to know that you [Team Malmstrom members] are important," Mechenbier said. "There will always be hard times. There will always be another obstacle for you to overcome, but I want you to know that you are the key to overcoming it. You can always succeed." 

American300 is an all volunteer 501c3 nonprofit effort lead by Veterans and Patriots who believe in connecting amazing individuals with our Armed Forces Members repeatedly over a span of years.  Through relationships and a better understanding of what is truly possible in life our teams help foster a commitment to being the best we can all be in service to our country, our families and our communities.  For more information on American300 visit: 

Three Wars, Three Purple Hearts - The John Bates USMC Story

American300 Public Affairs - 4/4/15

This week John Bates will join Robi Powers as the two visit USCG District 11 Units in California.  Here's a little background on our 'Service with Honor Series' guest; Colonel John Bates, USMC retired: 

When John Bates was awarded his third purple heart for combat actions in Vietnam it earned him a flight back to the States and a ticket out of the United States Marine Corps.  The only problem was the young Sergeant didn’t want either.
Having survived machine gun fire to the chest, the searing heat of fragmentation in his legs from a grenade and being skewered by a 3 foot tall punji stake, war had left its marks on the Marine inside and out. The wounds, experienced over the span of nearly a year in Vietnam’s jungles had literally taken their pound of flesh out of the Marine. 

What hadn’t been taken out of the Marine was the desire to stay in the Corps. When word came down from command that he would be medically retired the news came as a  fourth shock every bit as devastating as the three combat injuries. 

Facing the reality of being a Veteran years ahead of schedule, Bates decided to pick up where he’d left off in college prior to enlisting just a few years prior.  Over the span of half a decade, college credits eventually lead to several degrees. 

With bachelor and master degrees in hand and capable of running marathons and ultra -marathons, Bates started requesting permission to come out of retirement- to re-enter the active duty Marine Corps. 

After years of being told no, the Navy Medical Board finally signed off on his health records and gave the Marines the final say on allowing reinstatement. 

Marine Headquarters said yes, provided Bates could pass Officer Candidates School. 

The rest of the story is history.  Colonel John Bates Jr. USMC retired went on to serve in numerous command positions over the span of thirty-three plus years of service including two more combat tours in Kuwait and Iraq. 

"Service with Honor" is one of the many signature resiliency tours that all-volunteer nonprofit American300 produces for the Department of Defense throughout the year.  

Follow this Service with Honor Tour at:  and on facebook at ‘American300 Tours’ 
This tour is supported by USCG MWR and USCG HQ Public Affairs.  No federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit is intended or implied - 

Texas and New Mexico Events in March

Dallas Texas and White Sands New Mexico -  American300 Tours spread it's teams out this month with two amazing events.   Thanks to Justin Frazell and 95.9 Ranch Radio along with Texas Red Dirt Roads Television and the Dallas Mavericks' President Donnie Nelson, Robi Powers was able to join up with fellow American300 Warrior Ray Johnston for the Dallas Mavericks Military Appreciation Day.

Along the way Robi connected with Staff Sergeant Shilo Harris, another wounded warrior American300 Tours volunteer and connected with Bart Crow, another singer/songwriting former Army 3rd Infantry Division veteran.   Special Thanks to host Justin Frazell and Donnie Nelson for the amazing hospitality and showcasing of our Service Members - Bravo Zulu to All!

While Powers was in Dallas, Graham Muir of Manic Training was pulling together the Troops for our first sponsored effort in New Mexico.   Our friends at Cheyenne Mountain were in need of some help and American300 was able to come through thanks to John Centner of Steamboat Motors and Graham Muir and the guys from Manic Training.    We're sponsoring 2 individual USAF/721MSG efforts and the USAF/American300/Manic Training HEAVY Teams effort.  

We'll freshen up this posting with results and quotes from the Bataan Memorial Death March participants once they get back to Colorado.   In the mean time share a prayer with them.. it's one heck of an event so steeped in honor and remembrance.

Never Quit - Minot Air Force Base 2015

Minot Air Force Base -  When the equipment case slammed down on top of Cavalry Scout Trooper Patrick MacDonald it was like adding insult to injury.  The 113 Armored Personnel Carrier he was coming down off the DMZ in had already started sliding down the South Korean mountain people were going to get hurt. 

The huge equipment case was just the icing on the cake, weighing well over five hundred pounds it slammed into  Patrick's chest.  In the end it drove it’s punishment into his chest cavity and broke the Cav Scout’s back and severed his spinal cord.

U.S. Army Sergeant Patrick MacDonald was paralyized and dying from internal injuries. 

Over the past decade the Department of Defense has spent tremendous time, energy and resources on the subject of resiliency.  

For Patrick MacDonald and family, rebounded from the near life ending injury to re-starting life with a wheelchair, the realities of resiliency in the military don't get more real.   

When Erin Nemec qualified for the Olympic Winter Games in Snowboarding’s BorderCross event she was already a ESPN Winter XGames star with medals to go prove it.   

The problem was she didn’t really know her Olympic Team teammates.  After laying down fantastic Olympic qualification runs, Erin was the focus of the Canadian Snowboarding program... it looked like Canada might bring home a medal.   

The attention she received didn’t sit all that well with Erin’s ‘teammates’ who for years had been the standout athletes on the team.  Instead of being a part of a team, Erin found herself an outsider.  Instead of congratulations, she was ignored... instead of being welcomed she was blindsided.  

When the Olympic Games were over, Erin had posted her worst international result, but she’d learned something in the process... just because you’re named to a team doesn’t mean you’re on a team.

Luckily, Erin had Kevin a renowned coach and devoted husband.  She also had a team that would gladly take her in after the Olympics... Erin became a defacto member of the US Team. 

“They were just truly supportive, they could count on me to have their back and I theirs... to me it just felt like the kind of team I should have been on up in Canada.” said Erin over the phone while getting ready for the trip to Minot, North Dakota, adding, “I’m stoked Cactus (nickname for her husband Kevin) is coming on this American300 Never Quit Tour, he tells the story of what I went through in Torino much better then I do.” 

American300 has brought valued guests like these to Minot Air Force Base well over a dozen times over the past 3 years.  All in an effort to support the Air Force Fit program which focuses on comprehensive Airmen wellbeing and personal and family development.  “We’ve shared some amazing life stories with these Airmen over the years,” says Robi Powers, founder of American300 he adds, “Erin and Cactus‘ life story is so different from Patrick’s, but together and combined with dozens of other guests that have traveled to Minot, it all makes for a compelling and lasting message.”

For more information on American300 visit: 

American300 is a volunteer nonprofit 501c3 with a mission of increasing the resiliency capabilities of today's Armed Forces Members.   No federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit is intended or implied -