Memorial Day: 10 Country Stars Who Support Or Served In The US Military

CMT is reflecting on patriotic performers who stand proud with the US forces in honor of the fallen heroes.

The last Monday in May has officially arrived, and today we remember the brave fallen soldiers who have protected our country and fought fearlessly for our freedom.

The country music genre and the United States military has a rich history, which traces back to World War II. Old-school artist Red Foley released “There’s A Blue Star Shining Bright,” about a mother honoring her deployed son. In 1965 Johnnie Wright’sHello Vietnam” became a No.1 single, Loretta Lynn penned “Dear Uncle Sam” in 1966, and several other call-to-action or tribute tracks followed.

According to The Washington Post, the Army and Air force used country music radio and television performances as a tactic to recruit in the 1950s. Fast forward to the 21st century, where country artists still pay homage to the armed forces and veterans through the power of music. Some of the genre’s biggest hitmakers – Willie Nelson, Craig Morgan, and Zach Bryan even sing from experience as they endured numerous military missions.

In honor of Memorial Day, CMT has cultivated a roundup of musicians who have either served or proudly supported the United States military. Whether they placed pen to paper to create a patriotic anthem, embarked on a USO Tour, rubbed elbows with vets, or enlisted – they rightfully earned a spot.

Charlie Daniels

Taylor Hill

The late Charlie Daniels has dedicated his livelihood and career to supporting the troops. The Country Music Hall of Famer started playing shows for soldiers in the 1960s and became one of the first country stars to travel to Iraq to perform after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2014, Daniels and his long-time manager David Corlew launched The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project – an organization that provides rehabilitation, trauma, and financial assistance to veterans. Following his death in 2020 due to a hemorrhagic stroke, the vocalist received military honors during his memorial service in Nashville, Tennessee. Journey Home Project has raised more than $2 million.

Chris Young

Ethan Miller/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Country music star Chris Young has gone the extra mile to connect with US service members nationwide. In 2009, the hitmaker traveled to Kuwait, Germany, and Iraq with industry friend Craig Morgan for Stars For Stripes – an association that provides entertainment overseas. Following his performance, he raised over $30,000 for the organization in 2013. While the “Famous Friends” singer was on his 2019 Raised On Country Tour, he partnered with USAA to visit military bases to grant resilient personnel free tickets. At the 55th annual CMA Awards, Young acknowledged the military alongside host Luke Bryan to discuss NFL Salute to Service and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. The country crooner has close ties to the military, as his sister and brother-in-law served as marines.

Craig Morgan

U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann

Before Craig Morgan was a country music star, he served in the United States Army with the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. The multi-platinum artist Craig Morgan was recently inducted into the U.S. Field Artillery Hall of Fame for 17-years of active duty. Morgan served in South Korea before heading to Panama in 1989 as part of Operation Just Cause. The brave veteran also worked alongside the CIA in Panama and combatted sex traffickers in Thailand. Morgan penned “Sippin’ On The Simple Life” with active Army Airborne Rangers before they deployed to Afghanistan.

Zach Bryan

Zach Bryan was an active-duty member in the US Navy, when he accidentally fell into the country music genre. The breakout star filmed himself singing “Heading South” on a phone outside his Navy quarters overseas. The acoustic original that displays his soulful sound went viral on social media. Bryan was only 17-years-old when he first joined the Navy, as he followed in his family’s footsteps. His late mother, father, and grandfather all served in the Navy. After eight years of service, the fast-rising artist was honorably discharged to pursue music full-time.

Tim McGraw

Country music legend Tim McGraw comes from a long line of military members, as his sister is a veteran of the Army, his uncle served in Vietnam, and his grandfather also joined the Navy. Throughout McGraw’s flourishing career, he made it his mission to pay tribute to the men and women who placed their lives on the line. The “Humble And Kind” singer launched a program called Operation Homefront in partnership with Chase. The organization provides mortgage-free homes to wounded warriors and individuals of the armed forces. McGraw has held several free concerts to thank troops at bases nationwide and released the military-inspired track “If You’re Reading This.”

Darryl Worley

Darryl Worley and Wynn Varble wrote “Have You Forgotten?” following the 9/11 attacks and it stomped all over his current radio single. Five weeks later, it was the No. 1 country song in America.

“It’s funny how it has changed the course of my life,” Worley said.

The song impacted others, too. Following a television taping in New York City, a woman approached him to share that “Have You Forgotten?” was the fuel her son needed to join the military.

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