As several veterans and their families gathered at the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday night (May 22) for the Opry’s annual Salute the Troops event, it was clear that the artists were just as honored to meet them as the veterans were to see some country music’s brightest stars. Darius Rucker, Kellie Pickler, Trace Adkins, Craig Morgan and Lee Greenwood were all on hand to say thank you to the selfless men and women who have served our country, along with their family members.
“Our veterans and their families sacrifice so much for us to live in this country and to have the freedoms that we have. Any time I can do anything to help, it’s a no-brainer for me,” says Rucker, who presented former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Francis Kancir and his family with the key to their new home in Clarksville, Tennessee, on behalf of the Military Warriors Support Foundation. It’s the 26th time that Rucker has helped give away a home to a veteran through the organization. “When I heard they were doing this, I wanted to be a part of this show. I’m honored to be here.”
Like Rucker, Adkins is thankful to be part of an event that pays homage to the people who make significant sacrifices every day, taking the time to personally show his appreciation for their altruistic efforts.
“It’s hard for me to put into words how this always feels, when you just feel so undeserving of these people’s gratitude,” he expresses. “We’re here to say thank you to you and to salute you and the sacrifices that you made.”
Pickler has been a longtime supporter of members of the military, traveling on 11 USO tours to entertain the troops overseas, a life-changing experience she’s grateful for.
“Each trip has been memorable in its own way. Every tour that I come back from, I always think in my head everything that I’ve ever taken for granted,” the Pickler & Ben star reflects. “It really keeps your feet on solid ground. It keeps your perspective in check.”
As a veteran himself, an event like this is personal for Morgan, who served for nearly 10 years in the Army in two of its Airborne Divisions before transitioning careers into country music. This particular genre of music has long harbored a strong connection to the military, and Morgan believes that special relationship has to do with the human aspect of both professions.
“You could say it’s as simple as country representing country,” he explains. “I think the reality is country music is the people’s format and the majority of the people that are in this format, we’re people that live the lifestyle that we sing and write and talk about. So, it’s more believable because it’s easier to tell a story when you’ve lived or experienced that story. That’s what country music does.”