Steve Curda, Ph.D. has an impressive resume. He’s director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. He holds the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Army, having returned from commanding the Pacific fleet. And he’s on hiatus from his NLU role as associate professor, teaching courses in Educational Technology and serving as Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs.
On Aug. 26, the Illinois State Fair in downstate DuQuoin held its Veterans Day, so Curda traveled there in his role with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The fair’s entertainment lineup included Cheap Trick, one of Curda’s all-time favorites, that day.
The band’s lead frontman, Rick Nielsen, invited Curda to come up on the platform, remarking that if the general’s been to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, surely he’s not afraid to come up onstage.
Curda accepted the mic and thanked and acknowledged all the veterans in the audience. Then Nielsen invited him to watch the concert from the wings, with the warning he was going to sing the last song with them.
And so he did. It turned out to be “Surrender,” which even has a military reference—it talks about how the narrator’s mother served with the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. Curda knew the lyrics.
“When you get a chance to sing with your idol of a band when you were a kid, that’s pretty special,” Curda said. “And that’s what happened.”