By Master Sgt. Kap Kim, Combined Joint Task Force 10May 15, 2014
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- 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.
As it turned out, she was lucky to miss the evening she was supposed to go, and she ended up going on a night when Craig Morgan would be performing. Corey Phillips 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.
Morgan, in his 11th Armed Forces Entertainment tour overseas since 9/11, toured several locations through Kabul and Regional Command-East, performing for thousands of deployed troops and civilians, signing autographs and meeting with Soldiers on 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."
Phillips 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 Phillips, an Apache helicopter repairer and platoon sergeant with D Company, 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation Brigade, "Task Force Thunder," 101st Airborne Division, out of Fort Campbell, Ky., had made it his mission to have Morgan personally deliver a message to his wife.
Morgan pulled Nikki Phillips onto the stage, and after taking a cell phone selfie, he dedicated his latest single, "Wake Up Lovin' You" to her and her husband.
When Morgan sang the song to Soldiers at FOB Shank, he told the story of how Phillips 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," Corey Phillips said.
Nikki and Corey Phillips, 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 Phillips said.
"My wife has been a fan for a while, and (she) 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 Airfield, 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 (LI), 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, Kan. "It shows how much he supports the troops, which means a great deal … amazing experience."