Memories Of A Tour In Iraq

Stephanie LeighMy name is Stephanie Leigh, and I’m the drummer for ThundHerStruck, the all-girl tribute to AC/DC. One of the most incredible tours I’ve ever been a part of was the MWR military tour in Iraq. When ThundHerStruck first arrived, we were taken to Saddam Hussein’s palace, where we stayed the first night. The palace itself was incredible, with gold light fixtures, handcrafted marble, bedrooms the size of a small house, and an outdoor lake with wild animals on the premises. Saddam was in custody at that time, but it was quite unnerving to hear stories of the previous housekeeping crew, who’d been beheaded because they continued to work at the palace for the U.S. military after Saddam’s arrest. As you can imagine, the U.S. brought in a new, non-Iraqi crew (from the Philippines) after that.

The next day we readied for our tour. We were flown by Black Hawk helicopters to the military base where we were to perform our first show. That’s how we traveled from base to base during the whole tour, in Black Hawks. As we flew over Baghdad, the whole city was smoldering. Meanwhile, the women and children below were smiling and waving up at the Black Hawks. It was quite an unbelievable sight!

When we arrived at the base, we set up for soundcheck and prepared for the show. As I set up a drumkit rented from a ‘local’ music store in Kuwait, I noticed that my cymbals weren’t among the gear. In a joking manner I told the soldier/stagehand that I could use trash-can lids if we couldn’t find the cymbals. The stage manager found humor in that–until it became a reality! By showtime the crew had found the cymbals–on their way to another drummer for a different tour.

Sooooo, what do you do? The last thing that these hardworking, homesick, and sleep-deprived soldiers need is for some drummer to be sniveling over missing cymbals. I mean, come on, there’s a war on, for God’s sake! So I smiled and asked for the trash-can lids. The crew came back with one trash-can lid and two Marie Callender’s pie-tin-type lids for cymbals! (There are no hi-hats at this point, but beggars can’t be choosers.) So I put them on the cymbal stands, and on with the show!

It had to be the funniest thing to watch me hit a ‘cymbal’ and see it fold in half around my stick. I was able to pull the stick out from between the folded tin taco just in time to hit another beat, all while our vocalist, Dyna, is unfolding the cymbal/pie tin for me and singing into her mic at the same time! Needless to say, our first show was less “Wow, amazing performance” and more “Wow, how’d we make it through that!” Thankfully this band has very skilled musicians, and we pulled it off with a laugh. In the end I was able to borrow one cymbal and a hi-hat from a soldier at the next base for the remainder of the tour. At the very last event, my cymbals showed up and we had a really great show.

They were all great shows, though, because we were there to entertain the troops during this tough time when they were away from their homes and families. And that we did: ENTERTAIN!

For more on this tour plus other information, log on to