SALT LAKE CITY (East Idaho News) — Bubba Strauss is the ultimate Garth Brooks superfan.
He's seen the country megastar perform 67 times, knows all the band members by name, owns every album the singer has released and, during live shows, Brooks has shouted out Strauss' name from the stage.
Last year, during a Zoom call, the 54-year-old from Cincinnati expressed his appreciation to the artist.
"My wife wanted me to tell you she knows that I love you more than her," he said to Brooks, who laughed. "She's OK with that and is perfectly fine that she's No. 2."
Strauss was on the third row at Brooks' sold-out concert Saturday at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. By looking at him, you would have no idea he's battling stage 4 cancer.
"It's spread to my spine and brain," he told EastIdahoNews.com before the show. "The doctors told me I couldn't go to Garth's concert in Vegas (on July 10) or come here. I already had these in the making so I'm here. I'm finishing what I started until the Lord takes me."
What he started is the "Bubba Strauss Vets4Garth" charity organization that gives veterans a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Brooks in concert up close. It began in 2017, when Strauss had an extra ticket to the singer's Cincinnati show. He contacted a veterans organization, and one thing led to another.
"I go to each city and state and find veterans. I thank them for their service by treating them to dinner and then give them floor seats," Strauss explains. "I get to treat them to one of the best concert acts of all time. I want to make it unforgettable. It's my way of saying thank you rather than just doing it on Veterans Day."
Over the past four years, Strauss has taken 36 veterans to 36 Garth Brooks concerts across the country. He pays for dinner and tickets out of his own pocket, although he does accept donations.
In Salt Lake City, Strauss selected Army Spc. Victoria Galley and her father, Army Lt. Colonial Stephen Galley, to be his guests.
"When my dad was at Fort Seal, he bought country boots and two Garth Brooks CDs right before he was sent out to Desert Storm," Spc. Galley says. "He hasn't been to a concert since the '90s, so it was just amazing."
Strauss and the Galleys had dinner at The Pie Pizzeria on Friday night. Galley says it was "mindblowing" that, despite his cancer diagnosis, Strauss was in Utah buying them dinner and gifting them concert tickets.
"The pain he must be in — honestly, it's very heartwarming for me to see how much he would go out of his way to do that for me and for my father," she says. "What Mr. Bubba does for veterans is so amazing. I don't even know how to explain it. The fact he's still doing it — I'm just amazed at his kindness and how much he loves people who serve his country."
After Strauss was diagnosed with cancer in July 2020, he chatted with Brooks on Zoom. He said it was a "big lift" and continues to be inspired by the performer.
Strauss was forced to take medical retirement in February after a long career at the United States Postal Service. He's currently training 18-year-old Alex Paulson to take over Vets4Garth. The two met at a concert in Minneapolis.
Seeing my vets happy makes me happier. I can't take (money) with me when I die, and I'm getting rewarded by the satisfaction I get doing what I'm doing.
"He noticed I had tickets in the back and he, being the person he is, invited me to join him," Paulson said before the Salt Lake City concert. "Every moment he gets with Garth, I get chills. Seeing him happy makes me happier."
Strauss adds, "And seeing my vets happy makes me happier. I can't take (money) with me when I die, and I'm getting rewarded by the satisfaction I get doing what I'm doing."