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From left, Gunnery Sgt. James Cullen, Cpl. Noa Jent, Sgt. Maj. Leon Thornton, Marine Corps Community Services Deputy Director Chris Bennett, Lance Cpl. Carl Anderson and Cpl. Thomas Lucas pose with guitars signed and numbered by Richie Sambora. Photographer: Mike DiCicco Sambora says ‘Thank You’ to Marines

MCB QUANTICO, Va. — Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora said he wanted to do “anything to give back to the guys who are out there fighting for our freedom. I travel around the world, and I have for 30 years, and what I enjoy most about America is our freedom.”

One of those guys is Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Plescia, who has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In the course of his military service, Plescia has spent a total of about 10 years separated from his family, and although he was stationed at Quantico when he signed up for a chance to win one of the 100 signed, numbered, travel-friendly guitars that Sambora is giving out to Marines and sailors this summer, he has now been moved to California, while his wife and daughter remain here in Triangle.

“I’m a product of the ’80s. Bon Jovi was one of my favorite bands growing up,” Plescia said, remembering how he had caught the band’s “New Jersey” tour in his senior year of high school.

He was one of five Quantico Marines who each won a Voyage Air acoustic guitar with a travel pack, extra strings and a guitar tuner in Sambora’s raffle. The guitars fold in half, making them convenient for travel such as overseas deployment.  The four service members remaining on base were presented with the guitars Thursday morning, July 28, in the theater at Little Hall.

In a phone interview that night, Sambora, who was between concert dates in Spain, said he had received one of the guitars for his birthday and thought it would make a fitting gift for a service member stationed overseas. “The Marines, they need something compact, but they do a lot of hanging out too—when they’re not fighting, obviously.” He contacted the Marine Corps in October to set something up, and MCCS came up with the idea to raffle off the guitars. Entries were accepted in April and May. “It turned out to be a big success and we’re very excited about it,” Sambora said.

Lance Cpl. Carl Anderson, another recipient from Quantico, learned the day before the presentation that his guitar would be collapsible. “That’s actually pretty awesome. I’d probably take it with me everywhere I go,” he said. “It means a lot to me that you have those people who are looking out for the military and giving back to the military, thinking about things that we can use overseas.” He said he would take the guitar on his first deployment. “I plan on staying in [the Corps] so I can go over.”

“It’s an honor to be recognized by someone of [Sambora’s] stature and for him to give up his time to do this,” said Cpl. Thomas Lucas. He said he hadn’t played guitar much in the last 10 years or so but would now be motivated to practice again.

Gunnery Sgt. James Cullen said he had first seen the Voyage-Air guitar on the show “Shark Tank,” which vets entrepreneurial investment proposals. “A lot of products out there were not the best for traveling as far as I could tell, so I was pretty excited to find out I won one,” he said. Though he had been playing guitar for three years or so, Cullen said he hadn’t taken a guitar on his two deployments to Iraq because they were too bulky.

“Any time somebody who doesn’t have to takes the time to recognize or give back to service members it’s obviously a big deal,” he added.

“It didn’t really hit me until I actually got here and won,” said Cpl. Noa Jent. “So it was great. It’s amazing.” Having played for almost 20 years, he said he had wrestled a guitar onto the plane for both his deployments. Like Lucas and Cullen, he also remembered listening to a lot of Bon Jovi in his younger days.

This was not Sambora’s first project with the Marine Corps. In 2005, he was part of the Rockin’ the Corps concert at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. He said his special affinity for the Corps came from his former father-in-law, through his marriage with actress Heather Locklear, who was a Marine and who became a close personal friend.

Although music may not always be the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of ways to give back to the military serving overseas, Sambora said countless troops had approached him over the years saying they liked to listen to songs such as “Wanted Dead or Alive” before going into battle. “I think music always is an accompaniment to life in certain respects,” he said.

Sambora said he hoped his gesture would draw attention to the sacrifices military service members were making. “Guys like me can bring awareness to the situation of the troops.”

Plescia agreed. “It’s a give-back, you know—using the public eye to give back to the troops,” he said.

“I’m happy I can do something to help out and do my little part,” Sambora said. “I just wanted to say thank you, and I’m glad I got to do that.”