The Veterans We Treasure Most

Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts and More Name Names

In a Veterans Day salute to the military, a dozen country singers and bands got together for a special CBS Radio Stars & String Concert on Wednesday night (Nov. 9) in Chicago.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 09:  Tyler Farr and band performs at the CBS RADIOs second annual Stars and Strings concert at The Chicago Theatre on November 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage) Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

They did it in that casual, unplugged, songwriter-round kind of way, and they all took turns playing a few songs and telling a few stories.

But backstage before the show, I got to hear even more stories when I asked a few of the artists, “Who is the veteran who you treasure most?”

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 09:  Singer Jason Aldean performs at the CBS RADIOs second annual Stars and Strings concert at The Chicago Theatre on November 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage) Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

Jason Aldean: “My dad”
He was in the Air Force, so that’s how I grew up: going to the Homestead Air Reserve Base. He was stationed there, and I spent a lot of time as a kid running around on the flight line and crawling in airplanes and wearing my little version of the uniform. He’s was a weapons mechanic, and he’s retired now.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 09:  Brantley Gilbert, Joe Don Rooney, Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts perform at the CBS RADIOs second annual Stars and Strings concert at The Chicago Theatre on November 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage) Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

Gary LeVox: “Dakota Meyer”
One of my dearest friends is Dakota Meyer. He has a Congressional Medal of Honor from his time in Afghanistan. His story in unbelievable. He was a small town boy from Kentucky, and grew up to be a Marine Corps sniper. And he is an absolute hero.

Jay DeMarcus: “Marcus Luttrell”
I’m proud to say I’m really good friends with Marcus Luttrell. I met him a few years ago at an ACM event. Boy, talk about someone you can sit and talk for days with. He has story, after story. A lot of people just have the snapshot of him from the movie Lone Survivor, but at the heart of who he is is an incredible human being with a gracious and giving heart. There is not enough I can say about those who stand in harm’s way to defend everything we enjoy every day. I am in awe of those people and the prices they paid.

Joe Don Rooney: “My dad”
My dad was in the Navy, and he served for quite a few years. I’ve been surrounded by military my whole life. They’re why we get to do what we do. They fought for the freedoms we have.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 09:  Brett Eldredge performs at the CBS RADIOs second annual Stars and Strings concert at The Chicago Theatre on November 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage) Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

Brett Eldredge: “My grandfather”
My grandfather’s stories of being in Korea were incredible. He’s not around anymore, but I loved the stories he had of how little they had to eat — and all the things they were going through over there — while we were all back home living our normal lives. I actually get nervous around people who have been in the military and fought for our country, because it is way more significant than what I do.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 09:  Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney of Dan + Shay perform  at CBS RADIOs second annual Stars and Strings concert at The Chicago Theatre on November 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage) Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

Dan Smyers: “My grandfather”
When I was growing up, I did a project in middle school and I got to interview my grandfather, hear all his stories and pull out the old newspaper clippings from when he returned. So I’d say I’m most proud of my grandfather for serving, but also my grandmother for staying home and raising the kids. I know that was not easy either.

Shay Mooney: “My cousin Paul”
Paul is a Navy SEAL, and it’s just insane to me what he does, and that he puts his life on the line to protect our freedom. He makes so many sacrifices, all for us.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 09:  Big Kenny and John Rich of Big & Rich perform at CBS RADIOs second annual Stars and Strings concert at The Chicago Theatre on November 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage) Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

John Rich: “Niles Harris”
We’ve all been drastically impacted by veterans. By guys like Niles Harris, who (Big & Rich) wrote “8th of November” about. By guys like Noah Galloway, who’s a modern-day Superman and by guys like my granddaddy, who’s got six Purple Hearts from World War II. He was a tunnel rat. So he was the small-built guy they’d send into a cave in Japan to flush the Japanese out of the other side of the cave.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 09:  Tyler Farr and band performs at the CBS RADIOs second annual Stars and Strings concert at The Chicago Theatre on November 9, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/WireImage) Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

Tyler Farr: “My grandpa”
My grandpa fought in Vietnam in the Navy and he is a remarkable man. He is the most respectful human being I know and just a very kind man. He didn’t talk about the war a lot. But when my parents would get to fighting, I’d run across the pasture to his house and stay there with him and my grandma. I’d lay across the foot of their big bed, and he had an AM radio there so we could listen to the Grand Ole Opry.

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