The USAF Redeemer guitar that Guilford built in their honor features a bound, poplar body covered with United States Air Force camouflage, and it’s finished in gloss nitrocellulose.

The United Service Organizations (USO) began its star treatment for U.S. troops during World War II, when Bob Hope took the stage at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California, on May 6, 1941. Since then, celebrities—from musicians like the Zac Brown Band and Toby Keith to comedians and actors such as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart—have entertained and participated in thousands of USO shows across the globe. The aim is to lift troop morale through laughter and song, regardless of the political affiliation of the star. But for Lillian Axe lead guitarist Steve Blaze, it went further than that.

“I’ve always had a great appreciation for our military at all levels—from the guys at the desks to the guys in the field—for what they’ve done for this country,” says Blaze. “When my friend Major Henry C. Cecil asked me if I thought it’d be a good idea to get luthier John Guilford to build a guitar to benefit the U.S. Air Force … [laughs] before he could even finish his sentence, I said, ‘Yes!’”

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