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Intimate KISS concert highlights military personnel's sacrifices

Private event boosts Oregon Military Museum capital campaign


Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer performs during the All Star Salute to the Oregon Military fundraiser at the home of Rick and Erika Miller in Lake Oswego.Tommy Thayer, a 1978 graduate of Sunset High School, is best known for joining KISS as the rock band’s lead guitarist in 2003, but what might not be as well known is his philanthropy.

On Sept. 14, KISS was the star attraction at the third annual All-Star Salute to the Oregon Military, held at the home of Rick and Erika Miller on Jantzen Island in Lake Oswego, which was a fundraiser for the Brig. Gen. James B. Thayer Oregon Military Museum, now under construction at the Oregon Military Heritage Park at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas.

Surrounded by tall fir trees glowing with lavender lights and the Millers’ home resplendent in blue lights as the backdrop, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Thayer and Eric Singer performed gratis at the event that raised $1.15 million for the museum.

Tommy Thayer, who was raised in Beaverton, is the son of James Thayer, 93, who joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and earned Silver and Bronze Stars for his service in Europe during World War II. His anti-tank platoon, which was part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army, liberated several Nazi forced labor and death camps, saving the lives of thousands of Jewish prisoners.

Ironically, there is fairly substantial historical evidence that Simmons’ mother was in one of the camps that James Thayer liberated, and KISS members are fervent about the importance of honoring the military.

“This is extremely rare for us to do a private concert like this,” said Tommy Thayer, who serves on the Pacific University Board of Trustees and is involved in several charity organizations. “But we will do it for a good philanthropic cause like this. I think KISS is different from other bands in that way.

“What is great is that we tend to back each other up and do things together. It means a lot to me that the rest of them are here with me. I’m so psyched to be here for this fundraiser and to commemorate what the veterans have done by putting their lives on the line for us.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - KISS front man Paul Stanley entertains the ladies on stage during the All Star Salute to the Oregon Military fundraiser at the home of Rick and Erika Miller in Lake Oswego.

The 32,000-square-foot museum will include more than 20,000 square feet of exhibit space, with the adjoining Heritage Park and Memorial Gardens encompassing more than 4 acres of additional exhibits.

Visitors will be able to view exhibits featuring Oregon’s military history from the earliest Native American warring tribes to the first Oregon Militia in 1843 to present-day troops serving in Afghanistan. The collection includes more than 14,500 artifacts plus a library that will house more than 30,000 volumes and 750 cubic feet of archives dating back to the 1860s.

“We are doing this because it’s about remembering what our veterans have done,” Tommy Thayer added. “They should not be forgotten by the people in our country. It’s important for youth to know what has happened in our history. KISS is happy to raise a lot of money for the military museum — it’s our history.

“I try to do what I can to help a lot of wonderful people. If you are in a place and position like we are, you need to be able to give back.”

Stanley added, “What is more worthwhile than to shed light on the military? We appreciate their sacrifice and everything they made possible for the rest of us. The idea of philanthropy is part of civilization, and we should help those who need help and champion those who do the hard work and deserve the accolades.”

The $14.6 million military museum capital campaign, under the auspices of the Historical Outreach Foundation, includes $6.4 million for the main building, $2 million for the exterior, $5.2 million for exhibits and $1 million for capital campaign expenses.

Organizers had a goal of making $1 million at the Sept. 14 event, which raised funds through ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and silent and oral auctions that all contributed to the capital campaign reaching the halfway mark.

About 180 tickets were sold for the event, and although the crowd was small, it was enthusiastic, with most people on their feet during the intimate KISS concert and sometimes joining the band on stage. Used to playing in front of big crowds, Stanley noted during the show that the band had recently played 42 concerts in front of a total of 600,000 people.

“This is the least we can do,” Simmons said. “This is not a story about rock stars but about remembering the military and all that they do.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - KISS band members Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer perform an All Star Salute to the Oregon Military at the home of Rick and Erika Miller in Lake Oswego.

For more information about the museum and capital campaign, visit

HistoricalOutreach.com, email info@HistoricalOutreach.com or call 503-683-6161.

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