It’s no secret that country music has always held a special relationship with America’s military members. Listen to just a few singers in the genre, and you’ll find that at the heart of many of their songs are patriotism, the value of American freedom, and the people in the Army, Marine Corps. Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard who work to ensure it. Some country singers themselves, including Johnny Cash, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, George Strait and, of course, Elvis Presley, have served in the military. And while country music has been present for years (as far back as World War II, in fact, when the first semblance of country appeared as folk music) it’s been in and out of mainstream music, dominating in some eras and flying below the radar in others.
These past 15 years have seen a rise in popularity for country music, and with that rise, country music has continued to carry messages of thanks for our active and veteran service members. Some of country’s top names take time out to take a stand for veterans.
Top country singer Trace Adkins tries to do a USO tour almost every year. “All I can say is ‘thank you’ to veterans,” Adkins says, “and hopefully bring a smile to people’s faces every now and then, and sing some songs they may enjoy hearing and just let them know that they’re appreciated.”
For his many acts of morale boosting and charity, Adkins was presented with the Outstanding Civilian Service Award at the Chief of Staff of the Army Salute last September. “I’m just trying to do my tiny little part,” said Adkins of his award.
Adkins has been the spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project since 2008, and has also volunteered to work with Operation Homefront and other non-profit organizations.
“Many of these heroes,” he said, “struggle with visible and invisible wounds, and the Wounded Warrior Project is there to help them.” Adkins says it’s a privilege to volunteer his time to honor those who’ve served and sacrificed, especially with Operation Homefront, which provides emergency financial assistance and builds mortgage-free homes for struggling veterans.
Miranda Lambert is known for her appearances at military and veteran benefit concerts around the country. But this past August, at one of her own concert stops, she was moved to tears by a veteran holding a sign in the audience. While singing her hit, “The House That Built Me,” Lambert noticed a sign: “3 combat tours … Your voice was the last thing I listened to EVERY NIGHT! THANK YOU!!!”
Eyes wide, Lambert stepped away from her microphone to pull the sign out of the crowd and hold it up onstage so the whole crowd could see, eliciting rousing cheers. The singer’s eyes filled with tears and she tried to continue the song but couldn’t.
Lambert later met that veteran, Jeff Tudisca, and his wife at the concert stadium for an emotional chat.
Tim McGraw always has time to perform at special concerts for veterans. But McGraw takes his support one huge step further: he has already given away 144 homes to American veterans, through support from Chase and Operation Homefront.
At each of his 36 tour stops last summer, McGraw gave away a newly renovated, mortgage-free home to a deserving military family—something he has been doing for four years now.
“The return to civilian life can be a challenging transition,” says McGraw. “We want to welcome veterans home to the community they sacrificed to protect. A mortgage-free home provides stability for their families and also allows them to start this new chapter of their life with one less worry. It’s an amazing feeling to see them receive something they so deeply deserve.”
Another star who likes to visit with the tropos—enough so that she has tattoos marking many of her military tours—is Kellie Pickler. A longtime supporter of U.S. military members and an eight-time USO tour veteran, Pickler has been selected as the first-ever recipient of the Operation Troop Aid Chris Kyle Patriot Award. The award, formerly the Operation Troop Aid Patriot Award, was renamed this year in Kyle’s honor, the late Navy SEAL and subject of the box-office hit, American Sniper. Operation Troop Aid is a non-profit military care package charity, dedicated to inspiring troops by showing that regular Americans stand with them.
“I just think it’s so important that our servicemen and women and our veterans and their families know that what they do, we don’t take for granted,” says Pickler.
Country great and veteran George Strait has been known to stop a concert to honor our troops and the many veterans who have given their lives for our freedom. At one of his special concerts to raise funds for Wounded Warriors, he told his fans: “We are all here to raise money for the Wounded Warriors through David Feherty’s Troops First Foundation that gives quality help to our brave American wounded soldiers from the Middle East.”
He continued, “The least we can do is support these brave men and women who fight for us and we are all humbled and grateful for their service.”
Strait has always made it a priority to honor military men and women at his concerts. He, too, has had the honor of giving away mortgage-free homes to military families.
Through their efforts—flying out to Iraq to sing for the men and women serviced there, honoring veterans onstage, and acknowledging their sacrifices—these country singers are helping to ensure that U.S. service members get the recognition they deserve.