Airmen keep band going through PCS

  • Published
  • By Sheila Rupp
  • Nucleus Journalist
Iceland isn't known for its warm beaches or as a spring break destination, but Iceland still rocks - rocks to American music, that is. Back in 2003, two Airmen found they shared a love of music. Several years later and on a different continent, they still share a love of music and still bring down the house with their sounds.

Master Sgt. Lawrence D. Willingham and Tech. Sgt. J.D. Morgan met while stationed at NAS Keflavik, Iceland, in 2003. Together with two other Airmen, they played music though they say they didn't consider themselves a band. They were invited to play in a base talent show and ended up taking home first place after just one practice session, which is when, Sergeant Morgan said, that they decided they should seriously play together. They began playing on base and say that the fire marshal would routinely come and kick people out of the building because the crowd had grown too large.

One night after their first true gig the band members realized that they had yet to name the group. Sergeant Morgan said that they wanted to have a military flare to the band name but after more than an hour of brainstorming, they couldn't come up with anything.
"As we were on our way home I told Sergeant Willingham that I missed being in the states. We immediately agreed on Missing Stateside," Sergeant Morgan said.

Iceland was lacking a rock band; most of the local youth played in punk bands. Eventually, Missing Stateside played off base and developed a large following. Sergeant Morgan said, "Due to the fact that Icelandic's love American music and Missing Stateside was the only American band on the island, we were gigged there every weekend and they loved us."

While playing in Iceland, Missing Stateside played fundraisers to benefit the community. The band raised more than $3,000 for the family of a first sergeant who lost his battle to cancer, $2,500 for high school students to go to an international knowledge competition and more than $800 for the DOD school senior class for their senior dance. They said they also prided themselves in playing promotion parties, deployments going away parties and homecomings and other military events. They also played with John Popper of Blues Traveler.

Sergeant Willingham received orders here and Sergeant Morgan followed two years later. Missing Stateside has had numerous faces playing drums and singing.

"One thing about being in the military is that you have to know that PCS' and deployments will happen so you have to prepare for that," Sergeant Willingham said.

Since PCSing here, the band has evolved into what it is today: two Airmen, a former Marine who now works as a special education teacher and a business manager. Sergeant Willingham plays bass, Sergeant Morgan is on guitar and vocals, former Marine Tony Plebani sings lead vocals and plays guitar and business manager Tony Pisa plays drums.

Sergeants Willingham and Morgan met up with Mr. Pisa through a Web site to pair musicians. The four band mates have currently been playing together for approximately three months. All say they love music and that's what is important. Mr. Pisa said they all have very unique personalities and that's part of what makes them mesh so well.
"We're not in it for the money. It's like being in the military - we didn't join the military for the money - we joined to be a part of something bigger," Sergeant Morgan said.

Their fan base is a very diverse group because they play all kinds of rock music, ranging from the free-spirited '60s to the hits of today. Aside from their military fans, they draw in Albuquerque Public School teachers and police officers, along with other music fans. Sergeant Morgan said their music has a little something for everyone and that the band enjoys the interaction with the fans.

"We just come out to have fun. We love to entertain other people and ourselves," Sergeant Morgan said.

Sergeant Willingham said that they enjoy helping the community and look forward to more outreach in the future.

Although they are now serving stateside, the band members have no intention of changing the name of the band. They said their fan base knows them as Missing Stateside, but beyond that, Sergeant Morgan said that the name means something and means something different to everyone.

"In one way or another everyone is touching or is connected to the military somehow and we love to support the troops," Mr. Pisa said. 

For more information about the band and for upcoming show dates visit