NH-based band reuniting with lead singer in Iraq

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Members of a New Hampshire-based band make the Mother of All Road Trips this week, meeting up with their lead singer in Baghdad and performing there for troops and charities.

“It’s a clash of my two lives,” said Maj. Michael Pacheco, an Army Reserve officer better known at wedding receptions and other gatherings around New England as Mike Greene, charismatic lead singer for the Groove Alliance.

“It is the road trip of their lives,” Pacheco, 47, said of his stateside colleagues in a telephone interview from Baghdad.

Pacheco is a civil affairs officer there working with a humanitarian group, the Starfish Network, which raises money to provide specialized medical care for Iraqi children, often in Jordan or the even the United States. The children have been injured in the war or suffer from other afflictions.

The trip came about because of a conversation Pacheco had in Baghdad with a contractor working in the city.

“I mentioned I had a band at home,” he said, and the contractor took it from there, lining up financing for a concert tour.

Logistically, it involves flying a dozen people, including the Manchester-based band’s sound technician and a videographer, and their equipment to Iraq for four shows.

The group is calling it the “Deadly Force Tour 2007.”

One performance will raise money for the Starfish Network. Others will be for U.S. soldiers and State Department workers in the fortified Green Zone; for Iraqis who work for the U.S. and its allies in the zone; and for wounded soldiers in the zone’s hospital, said Pacheco, who is from Henniker.

The Green Zone is the heavily guarded diplomatic-government area in central Baghdad where U.S. occupation authorities live and work. Pacheco said the area is secure, and he is not worried about security for his friends.

As he prepared for the trip, lead guitarist Jesse Silva of Plaistow was excited.

“It’s going to be an adventure,” he said. “The chance of lifetime.”

Silva said when Pacheco floated the idea, there were mixed feelings, but not from him.

“I didn’t give it a second thought,” he said.

“With everything happening, I think sometimes children get forgotten. It’s a great thing,” he said.

The group will be in Iraq for a week to 10 days this month. Silva didn’t want to give specific dates for security reasons.

American contractor ECC International works with an Iraqi company, the Taha-Kubba Group, on charitable programs, including the Starfish Network. The two are sponsoring the road trip.

From Baghdad, Walid Issa Taha, chief executive of the Taha-Kubba Group, sees it as an investment, and hopefully a first step toward getting more help for needy children.

“Iraq from the previous regime was not so familiar with how to find sources of funding and how to bring a (fundraising) event,” he said in a telephone interview. “This is very new to us.”

Taha said the band members are brave to venture into Iraq “where the security level is not so attractive.”

Taha said he hopes the concerts will spur charitable fundraising by other Iraqis, and other companies working in the country.

“There must be something to move the wheel that could excite others that there are others ways of funding other than waiting for donations from here and (t)here,” he said.

He said the Starfish Network raises money from various sources, including American soldiers, and has 4,550 children on a waiting list for treatment.

Pacheco has been in Baghdad since April assigned to a Provincial Reconstruction Team. At home, he was New Hampshire coordinator for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps.

He misses performing, but loves being in the Army, working with local officials in Iraq who are learning to govern themselves and set up an economy and a health care system.

“Things are moving, not by leaps and bounds, but moving in the right direction,” he said.

“You celebrate very small steps and very small achievements,” he said. “And together they will build into one great achievement.”

Groove Alliance performs around New England and is a regular at Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort and Casino.

Other band members making the trip are: Carl Benevides, Manchester; Steve Price, Exeter; Chris Elliott, Portsmouth; Jim Robbins, Dover; Jim Sambataro, Salem; and Massachusets residents Jim MacConduibh, Medford; Ray DeMartini, Haverhill; Adriana Giancoli, Danvers; and videographer Bill Giancoli, also of Danvers.



On the Net:

http://www.taha-kubba.com

http://www.ecc.net

http://www.groove-alliance.com

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