The guitarist is gearing up to mount the third annual VetsAid concert on Sunday in Houston, Texas, and told People his childhood tragedy compelled him to support the cause.
“One of the things that encouraged me to have the VetsAid shows is that I was a Gold Star kid,” the 71-year-old shared. “My father died in active duty when I was about two years old. I eventually had a stepfather, who I love and I’m grateful for, who had my back, but I grew up never really knowing my father.
“So I’m a member of the Gold Star families. I know what that sadness is. We didn’t have the Gold Star terminology when I was growing up. It was just, ‘Oh you lost your father? That’s too bad.'”
The Hotel California star’s father was a flight instructor for the first U.S. operational jet-powered aircraft – the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star – and passed away while stationed and on active duty on Okinawa Island in Japan.
“There’s a special place for me with the Gold Star families because I am one,” he added of meeting families with similar experiences. “When we get all the kids together during the concert, they have their own place. They have their own room where they can go off to the side and meet each other and play video games and talk. That’s something I never had, so I’m grateful to make that possible for them.”
The musician added the cause is “not political”, and he enjoys returning to the event because it helps “break down the boundaries” and “bridge the division” between opposing political views.