Country singer, veteran Craig Morgan marks his 11th trip to deployed troops
By Master Sgt. Kap Kim, Combined Joint Task Force-10 Public AffairsMay 13, 2014
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (May 13, 2014) -- When Nikki Phillips won tickets to go to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, April 22, she emailed her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Corey Phillips immediately.
Unfortunately, she didn't read the email from Nashville's 103.3 WKDF until it was too late to go. So, she contacted them, and they let her pick any Tuesday night at the Opry. In the end, she was lucky to miss the evening she was supposed to go, and ended up going on the night that Craig Morgan would be performing. Corey told her that, ironically, Morgan would be traveling to Afghanistan and to Forward Operating Base Fenty, where he is based, to perform for the troops there, May 5, 2014.
Morgan, in his 11th Armed Forces Entertainment tour overseas since Sept. 11, 2001, toured several locations through Kabul and Regional Command-East, performing for thousands of deployed troops and civilians, signing autographs and meeting with Soldiers, May 4-9.
"As a former Soldier myself, it is so important to me to have another opportunity to support our troops and do whatever I can to help keep morale high," Morgan said. "I've been doing this for 14 years now, and my two favorite places are here and the Grand Ole Opry."
Nikki and her mother barely made it to the show, since she was overdue in her pregnancy, but when they got there, she could not imagine what was going to happen.
Corey, who is an Apache helicopter repairer and platoon sergeant with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation Brigade, "Task Force Thunder," 101st Airborne Division, out of Fort Campbell, Ky., made it his mission to have Morgan personally deliver a message to his wife.
Morgan pulled Nikki onto the stage, and after taking a cell phone selfie, he dedicated his latest single, "Wake Up Lovin' You" to her and Corey.
When Morgan sang the song to Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Shank, he told the story of how Corey sent a message on Facebook to him about how much he loved his wife and their unborn son and how he couldn't wait to get home to hold them both.
"I almost started to cry and thought that I was one of the luckiest men on the face of the earth to have that song dedicated to me and my wife and to be married to the greatest woman," said Corey.
Nikki and Corey, who are from Murfreesboro and Clarksville, Tenn., respectively, are also both huge fans of the former Soldier-turned country music star, but could never image how Morgan would receive their requests.
"I have followed him and his career basically since he showed up on the charts, and he being a Tennessee boy and living right down the road in Dickson, and being ex-Army, I am proud of him for doing what he does for the Soldiers and his fans," Corey said. "My wife has been a fan for a while, and fell in love with his new song, which he dedicated to her on the stage and sang it to her with his arm around her at the Grand Ole Opry."
During his performance at Bagram Air Field, a packed Quonset hut of country music fans sang along with Morgan and his band.
Sgt. Cara Parker, a chaplain's assistant with 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), waited until the end of a line of hundreds of autograph seekers to get a photo taken with Morgan.
"The time he took to take pictures with every single Soldier and sign autographs was phenomenal," said Parker, of Auburn, Kansas. "It shows how much he supports the troops which means a great deal, [it was an] amazing experience."