There aren’t enough thank you’s in the world to express the gratitude America has for those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. That’s what makes songs like Trace Adkins’ “Still a Soldier” so important.
In the official music video, there are no actors. Instead, the clip stars Army Spc. Brian Gerwitz in a mini-movie that shows what happens when combat veterans return to civilian life.
“It was important to us to have veterans and their families in the video,” Adkins told CMT.com during a recent Q&A with Gerwitz. “These people, they follow orders. They’re dedicated patriots. And that kind of commitment is something that I have the utmost respect for, and I think that my work with veterans’ organizations over the years has been the most rewarding thing that I’ve had the chance to do.”
Acting as himself was a departure for Gerwitz. As a combat engineer, his role while stationed in Iraq was finding and defusing IEDs — a task that is considered to be one of the Army’s most dangerous jobs.
“Every single day, all day, what we did was try to find them before they found us,” Gerwitz said. “[Coming home] was hard. It still is hard, to be honest with you, and that goes for a lot of combat veterans. When you go through stuff like that, it changes you for the rest of your life. You look at things differently. You handle things differently. It’s an ongoing process, and it has been for me for seven years now.”
The video documents the night Adkins and Gerwitz met, and it was an emotional event for the two new friends. It was at an Adkins’ concert in Paducah, Kentucky when during “Still a Soldier,” he invited U.S. military veterans onstage to thank them for their service. While Gerwitz along with his friend, Nick May, and a retired first lieutenant who served in the Vietnam War stood onstage, the Vietnam vet called them to attention. That moment brought Adkins to tears.
“They all snapped to attention, and it was totally spontaneous,” Adkins said. “I was trying to sing when I looked over there, and I saw this gentleman at attention, and it just tore me up.”
It’s a feeling that gets him every time he invites military veterans onstage for “Still a Soldier” live.
“It tears me up every night to see the emotion on their face because it seems to be a very special thing to those folks,” Adkins said. “I remember one night we did it, and there was a young lady who had served, and she just broke down, and it just killed me. It means a lot to them.”
When asked for advice on how to communicate better with military veterans at home, Gerwitz said patience is key.
“Everybody’s different,” he said. “They’ll talk to who they want to talk to when they’re ready. My wife knows the most about me, and she doesn’t know the half of it because some stuff just doesn’t need to be talked about. That’s between the brothers and the sisters that you have [in the military] and the people that you were serving with.”
Conversely, Adkins’ work with veterans through several USO tours and his work with the Wounded Warrior Project has forever changed him.
“It’s given me true perspective,” Adkins added, “that sometimes when things get bad, it’s not that bad. I mean, I’ve spent time with people who have lost limbs, have a traumatic brain injury and are scarred from the memories that they have, and they’re haunted by things they’ve seen. No matter how bad my day may be, it’s not that bad. There are people who have had it much worse.”
CMT Hot 20 Countdown filmed Adkins and Gerwitz’s recent visit to the Ft. Campbell Army Base where they attended its Air Assault School and gave back to officers and enlisted personnel. “Still a Soldier” will continue to be part of Adkins’ set when he joins Blake Shelton’s Country Music Freaks Tour in February.