Hallowed ground inspires heartfelt tribute by Kansas

Following a performance at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., in November 2011, members of the classic rock group Kansas were invited on a private tour of Arlington National Cemetery. During the tour the band members learned about the cemetery’s section 60.

They were so moved by what they heard they wrote a song, simply titled “Section 60,” which pays tribute to the service members laid to rest in that hallowed ground.

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“The song is performed as an instrumental, and the music is meant for those who are buried there, and their families. It’s meant to hopefully evoke a mood of respect for those lost, and continuing strength for those left behind,” said Phil Ehart, Kansas’ drummer and one of the band’s original members.

Section 60 is known as the saddest acre in America and is the final resting place for military members who have died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The area lies directly across from the part of the Pentagon struck by terrorists on 9/11.

KANSAS started performing Section 60 during their live shows in 2016. To make the song more poignant, they began asking a military member, or veteran, from the area to participate in the performance by carrying an American flag out onto the stage during the song.

The band recently played a show during their Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton. During the performance Tech. Sgt. Anthony Ritchie, an Air Force recruiter assigned to the Dayton area’s 380th Recruiting Squadron, volunteered to participate during the band’s tribute song.

“My leadership approached me, and I immediately jumped at the opportunity to participate in the band’s performance. I believe Section 60 is a great tribute to our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Ritchie.

“Besides thinking to myself ‘Don’t mess up’ while on stage, I was filled with pride for my military service. On my mind were all of the veterans that I’ve known throughout my life,” he said.

Several of the band members have personal ties to the military.

Ehart’s father was a career Air Force member, and his brother Steve is a retired Army ranger. Guitarist Richard Williams’ father served in World War II and his daughter Lauren is active-duty Navy stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. The band’s production manager’s wife, Melissa Singer, is a captain in the Marine Corps.

Ehart also worked with the USO in the 1980s to form the First Rock ‘n Roll Airborne Division, which performed a number of worldwide tours with headline acts at the time.

Before becoming an Air Force recruiter and being named rookie recruiter of the year, Ritchie originally came to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a medical laboratory technician and worked at the 711th Human Performance Wing. He quickly became active in the local community and eventually established the Dayton chapter of Team RWB, which is a group dedicated to enriching the lives of America’s veterans through physical and social activity.

During the 2015 and 2016 Air Force Marathon, if you saw a runner in the distinctive RWB red T-shirt carrying a large American flag you were seeing Ritchie in action.

The Dayton chapter has grown from one member to more than 1,200 since Ritchie started it in 2014. The members have events through the year in the Dayton area and volunteer many hours at the Dayton VA.

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