OFFSTAGE: Tim McGraw Helps Injured Soldier and His Family Feel at Home

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

When Tim McGraw sends you Thomas the Tank Engine trains, you know his heart’s in the right place. And that’s what he did after showing Jared LaDuke his newly-furnished apartment in Texas. McGraw was there to welcome LaDuke, his wife and their 2-year-old son Talon home. LaDuke was severely injured in Iraq two years ago when he nearly lost his left leg in an insurgent attack. “We were taking our new major around to see some bases, and our route was barricaded,” LaDuke told me. “So we took an alternate, which was the plan of the insurgents, and they blew us up. Our troop commander died, and I was in the gunner’s hatch, so my leg took a royal beating. I almost lost it. The orthopedic surgeon told me ’We can cut it off, or we can salvage it.’ I lost four inches of tibia and fibula and had all kinds of nerve damage.” LaDuke was in a wheelchair for a year and now has a halo brace around his leg. He lived in Operation Homefront Village during his recovery, then a couple of weeks ago got ready to move into his own apartment. “And when we walked in, the whole apartment is fully furnished with brand new stuff. I was in shock,” LaDuke remembers. “Then Tim McGraw walks in a few minutes later. Like as if a furnished apartment ain’t enough? It was so surreal. My wife was totally tearing up. Tim said, ’I was just in the neighborhood, so I thought I’d stop by. I was just wondering if I could use y’all’s bathroom.’ He walked around with us, then picked up Talon and walked him into his new room that they’d decorated with Thomas the Tank stuff.” LaDuke isn’t quite sure why he was the one chosen for all this. He’s the first to say there are so many injured and deserving soldiers out there. But he is eternally grateful. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be thankful enough,” he said. And the good news keeps coming. A few days after McGraw’s visit, the LaDukes received a package full of more Thomas the Tank Engine trains and tracks. And a note that said, “It was a real pleasure getting to meet you, Talon! Sincerely, Tim McGraw.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.