May 8, 2008 Some country artists sing patriotic songs. Others travel to bases to perform. Then, there are those elite few who have earned their stripes by fighting on the front lines, by sea, and in the air to bravely defend our country. Here are a few of country music's finest who proudly served for the red, white and blue: Craig Morgan, Josh Gracin, Phil Stacey, Keni Thomas and Stephen Cochran.
Read their powerful stories and click here to view personal photos of these brave men from their days in the military!
Craig Morgan is deep in the trenches of a country music career with hits like "That's What I Love About Sunday" and "Almost Home," but it was later in life before he enlisted in the music industry. The former staff sergeant was in active duty with the Army from 1985-1996 and then in the reserves until 2004.
"I think probably one of the coolest things was when I went to Korean Ranger School," Craig recalls. "That was probably one of the most challenging things I had ever done. It was 9 ½ weeks of some of the toughest physical, mental stuff that you could ever do."
While jumping out of planes was part of his day job, playing guitar and writing songs were his escape as Craig coped with life a long way from home.
"Korea is a point where it became even more so important than any other time," Craig said. "Music was something I kind of leaned on to take me back home sort of. I always wrote about the stuff that I missed the most at home."
In 1990, the Nashville, TN native won the U.S. Army Male Vocalist of the Year contest, but he didn't dare dream of actually attempting music for a living.
"I never did have the confidence," he says. "Some of my closest friends in the Army were people that were convincing me that I should get out of the Army and pursue it."
With those friendly marching orders, Craig signed up for a hitch with Broken Bow Records and has been rising through the ranks in country music ever since. He recently signed a new record deal with Sony BMG Nashville. However, his heart continues to serve with patriotic pride.
"We've been over to Iraq and Afghanistan entertaining for four years during Christmas holidays and New Years and other critical times, and we do shows throughout the year for the men and women who are serving here," Craig said. "I think it's an obligation as an American citizen. I think we're obligated to give back to the men and women in any way that we can."