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July Fourth singer says it’s all about the vets

Tim Hadler's life has been dedicated to country music, but on July Fourth he'll get the chance to combine his life's passion with another ideal that's very important to him.

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Tim Hadler’s life has been dedicated to country music, but on July Fourth he’ll get the chance to combine his life’s passion with another ideal that’s very important to him.

Hadler will headline the City of Cloquet’s Fourth of July Celebration at Veterans Park from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The three-time Grand Ole Opry performer will release his first CD later this year - which he hopes will help raise money for veterans’ issues.

“It (the Cloquet trip) was a last-minute thing that turned out to be great,” Hadler, 43, said.

Katrina Campbell plays fiddle with Hadler, and her parents handle the cheese curd concession at the Cloquet event. Alyson Leno of the Cloquet Chamber of Commerce made the connection and as a result, a main event was signed to benefit a very good cause.

“Katrina wanted to spend some time with her family and that was fine,” Hadler said. “And now I get to see a beautiful town on the Fourth of July.”

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Hadler also helps run the “Healing Home for Veterans” in Cedarcreek, Mo., and will donate his performance fee from the event to that group, which helps veterans readjust to civilian life.

“It’s a place where they can heal,” Hadler added. “It’s a six-month program and you don’t have to be a young vet. There are people with us who have scars from Vietnam.”

And even before that.

Hadler told a story of a volunteer at the facility who served in World War II, assigned to protect the aircraft carrier USS Franklin. He worked an anti-aircraft gun and missed a shot at a Japanese kamikaze aircraft which then hit the ship and killed 900 sailors.

“For years he felt guilty about what happened, and he felt responsible for all those lives,” Hadler said. “He had PTSD before anyone knew what PTSD was. Now he volunteers for us, helps us with buildings and fund raising.”

But Hadler hopes his music will eventually help foot the bill for the facility. He grew up in Washington, just 12 miles from the famous volcano at Mount St. Helens.

“My dad worked at a sawmill and we kids ran the farm to keep us out of trouble,” he said. “I started singing there. My first audience was cows.”

Hadler likes to joke that the volcano’s 1980 eruption “blew me all the way here.”

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But “here” was first Nashville, where Hadler moved in 1992. He visited the Grand Ole Opry as a fan and - just two years later - was singing on stage.

“When they call your name and you walk out, you feel like you’re walking on a cloud, at least I did,” Hadler said of his experience. “I couldn’t really feel anything from my hips down. It was a petrifying experience, you just walk out there and I can remember I could hear a pin drop. Every eye is on you and there’s so much respect for the Opry. I thought of how many times Hank Williams must have stood there, and then it’s my turn to sing a song. They gave me a standing ovation. I think they felt sorry for me.”

It was the start of a great stretch for Hadler, who got to know members of Randy Travis’ band while their front man, then known as Randy Traywick, was a dishwasher at the Nashville Palace across the street from the Opry.

“I’d hang out there a lot and got to become friends with his band. They’d get me backstage and I’d see Little Jimmy Dickens, Jim Ed Brown, Ricky Skaggs, and they were all so nice,” he said. “Then I got on the performer’s list but since I’m not a member I could get bumped and it happened a lot. Vince Gill kept bumping me one summer and I was about to ask if I could get his number just to ask him to be sick one weekend so I could get on stage!”

At that time, Hadler got a phone call from producer Kent Wells, asking if he would be interested in going to Branson, Mo. to do shows. “Kent produces Dolly Parton and some others and I was honored that he thought I had some marketability. My trouble was that I didn’t know what Branson was.”

Now Wells thinks Hadler is ready to take the next step. He is the force behind Hadler’s pending album, which will hopefully be distributed by the Cracker Barrel chain of stores.

In the end, Hadler wants more money for the veterans.

“I’ve got family who served so this is a heart thing for me,” he said. “The long-term goal is to be able to sustain the camp financially. I’ve done about 40,000 miles of traveling this year on the road so I haven’t been there much, but when I have been there, to see vets helping vets, that’s where the healing is.”

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If you can’t make the performance July Fourth at Cloquet’s Veterans Park, the camp has a website at www.gumicampusa.com . There are donation links there both for the camp and for its sponsor, the New Horizons Foundation.

“GUMI” stands for “Glad You Made It,” Hadler said. “It seems fitting to be working for the place on America’s greatest day.”

 

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