By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsJuly 9, 2008
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - More than 100 wounded warriors and their family members gathered in anticipation for a meet and greet with Grammy Award-nominated American country star Billy Ray Cyrus at the Warrior Assistance Center here, on the Fourth of July.As the performer entered the building, one could not decide who was more excited - the star or the fans - each thanking the other for their presence. "Our wounded warriors are very deserving of an opportunity like this," said Kristina Kalili, outreach program coordinator at the Warrior Assistance Center. "The Soldiers are excited and feel honored to have a superstar donate (his) time for a visit."Making his way to the lounge area, Cyrus stopped to shake hands with numerous people, posed for pictures and complimented Soldiers for their service to our country. Complete with sunglasses, cowboy boots, a T-shirt with the word "Tennessee" across his chest, and an accent to match, Cyrus exuded southern hospitality as he engaged each person in conversation. "I get a chance to say thanks to the troops, their families ... just looking them in the eyes and reaching out and shaking their hands," said Cyrus in an interview after the meet and greet. "The sacrifice they make for this great country is overwhelming."For the next hour, Cyrus signed autographs, chatted with Soldiers, and told young children to follow their dreams."I sign a lot of my autographs 'Follow your dreams,'" said Cyrus. "I think now's a great time for the kids and families to think about what they want to do with their lives ... knowing that anything is possible."I'm a huge supporter of people reaching out and going beyond their comfort zone and reaching their dreams," he continued. During the meet and greet, Cyrus listened attentively as Soldiers told stories of injuries they sustained in battle. Cyrus asked questions about their service and recuperation. "(Cyrus) came a long way, and I think it's great he is taking out time to give the Soldiers individual attention," said Spc. Joshua Floyd, Warrior Transition Battalion. "This is an outlet and brief moment when (the Soldiers) are not worrying about healing or transition. It's about the community effort, and he's a part of it." Cyrus is most known for his hit single "Achy Breaky Heart" that catapulted him into worldwide fame. He also holds the record by a debut artist for his album "Some Gave All," which was number one on Billboard's Hot 100 Album chart for 17 weeks in 1992. Cyrus explained he wrote the "Some Gave All" after meeting a Vietnam veteran in 1989. He repeated the lyrics, emphasizing the line "some stood through for the red, white and blue, and some had to fall." He said the song brings a great deal of positive attention to and has received appreciation from Soldiers."I always prayed that God would give me the wisdom and the ability to do what I was supposed to do on this earth, to fulfill my purpose," said Cyrus. "I think that singing that song and writing that song is part of my manifest destiny."Adding actor to his resume, Cyrus currently stars as Robby Stewart, father and manager to his teenage daughter, played by real-life daughter and teen icon, Miley, in the Emmy-nominated Disney Channel series, "Hannah Montana." He has also appeared in numerous movies and other television shows, including the lead role on the 2001 comedy and drama program "Doc." Jumping on the reality television show craze, Cyrus recently appeared on "Dancing with the Stars," making it to the final five. He was eventually eliminated in week eight. The busy star is also a host on the Country Music Television show "Nashville Star," and continues to make numerous appearances to showcase his musical talents around the country. No stranger to travel and being away from his family and farm near Nashville, Tenn., Cyrus offered advice to families of deployed Soldiers: "Stay busy ... and stay focused on being positive," he said about separations. "I believe the support of the Army and military in general begins in the home," he added. "It's a tight-knit foundation that needs to become stronger day-by-day."As the meet and greet neared an end, Lt. Col. Harold Xenitelis, commander, Warrior Transition Battalion, presented Cyrus with a certificate of appreciation for visiting the wounded warriors. Cyrus graciously accepted with a smile, a handshake, and numerous words of thanks. "Wow," said Cyrus. "I wasn't expecting this ... and it sure is an honor."