Willie Nelson warmed up for his Friday night concert for payingcustomers by playing a long freebie gig for soldiers injured inIraq.
It was the second straight year thatNelson squeezed in a show at Brooke Army Medical Center while heand his band were in San Antonio to play at the city's annualrodeo.
"I have a lot of respect for themilitary," said Nelson, himself an Air Force veteran. "I like toshow them that I support them every chance I get. ... We get asmuch out of it as (the soldiers)."
Last February the 72-year-old singerwore out his voice singing 11 songs at the Army hospital, and hehad to cancel his performance at the San Antonio Stock Show andRodeo.
He said part of the reason he came backwas that he felt bad his soldier concert was so short, never mindthat it was also at no charge to listeners.
"I didn't feel that I gave them a very good show," said Nelson, who was coming down with laryngitis at the time. "I figured one year later, my throat was back and I'd give it another shot."
Hundreds of patients, family members and hospital staff clapped and cheered as Nelson walked into the hospital's soaring atrium. He stopped briefly to sign in at the registration desk, writing his name and listing his address as simply "Texas."
Wearing a black T-shirt and black felt cowboy hat, he opened in his usual fashion with the song "Whiskey River."
More than an hour and 22 numbers later including old standbys like "Beer For My Horses," "On the Road Again," and "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" he finally set down his well-worn acoustic guitar.
Within seconds he was mobbed by fans who wanted his autograph and to pose with them for camera-phone photos.
Sgt. 1st Class Alan Hornaday, badly wounded in a suicide car bombing in Baghdad in 2004, had a front-row seat for the show.
"This is really cool, him being able to come out and visit soldiers and entertain them," said Hornaday, a national guardsman from Fordyce, Ark., who also saw Nelson here last year. "It picks everybody's spirits up. ... It means a lot."