'Hobo Jim' to entertain soldiers in Afghanistan

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2004

The musical sound of the Alaska frontier will fill the high country of Afghanistan next month when "Hobo Jim" Varsos takes his one-person show to soldiers of the Army's 501st Parachute Infantry.

Kenai Peninsula residents will have an opportunity to support the journey during two send-off shows for Hobo Jim at George's Casino in Kenai tonight and Saturday at 10 p.m.

A donation cover charge will help pay for the popular entertainer's travel.

Hobo Jim, who has never been in the military himself, said he has wanted to do something for the troops ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"A lot of these guys have been coming to my shows for years," Hobo Jim said Thursday.

"I got my clearance Feb. 15, and I've just been really excited ever since," he said.

Hobo Jim, officially named Alaska's Balladeer, is flying by commercial air from the United States to Germany, where he will board a military transport to Bagran.

"From there, I'll go out by chopper to the different posts," he said.

Hobo Jim will focus his visits on Alaskans who are members of the 501st Infantry, deployed to Afghanistan last November.

"I've been getting a lot of e-mails from the soldiers. They're very excited about me coming," he said.

Hobo Jim, who customarily performs each year at BJ's in Soldotna and Alice's in Homer, said members of the Army in Alaska have been very generous in helping him get ready for the upcoming trip.

"They let me take a shopping cart through the warehouse at Fort Richardson to get everything I'll need for the desert," he said.

The guitar-playing singer said he has been told the temperature in Afghanistan currently is hitting 110 degrees.

"That's going to be the hard part," he said.

"I burn up after 60 (degrees)."

He also said the soldiers have reported taking rocket attacks near some of their camps at night, but said he has been given protective equipment including a steel helmet and Kevlar vest that comes with titanium inserts for added protection.

When asked if he would be writing any new music for the trip, Hobo Jim said the soldiers have asked him to write a song about the 501st and he told them he'd have to see what they do first.

"I have to live and taste and breathe it," he said.

Hobo Jim will be in Afghanistan from April 1 to April 15 and returns to play for a "Cabin Fever Reliever" party at the Palmer Fairgrounds on April 17.

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