By Staff Sgt. Dave OversonJanuary 9, 2013
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - Service members at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, were treated to the country music sounds of the Armed Forces Entertainment "Nashville to You" music tour, Nov. 16, 2012, which included hit songs like "Jesus, Take the Wheel," "This One's for the Girls," and "Stronger," just to list a few.
The "Nashville to You" music tour performers were comprised of five singer and song writers who were eager to jump on stage and entertain the troops.
Hillary Lindsey, the lone female of the crew, has written songs for the likes of Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride during her country music career, while Troy Verges was the country music song writer of the year in 2011 and nominated for an Oscar as a co-writer with Lindsey on the "Crazy Heart" soundtrack.
"We are always looking for ways to show our appreciation for our service members," said Verges. "Outside of morale support and an occasional 'thank you for your service' at an airport we often fall short. These shows have been a life changing experience for me - to be able to say thank you face to face to these men and women is just incredible."
Keni Thomas is a country music singer and songwriter with two hit singles from the album "Flags of Our Fathers: A Soldier's Story," which charted on the Billboard Country Music Charts. In addition, Thomas is a former U.S. Army Ranger who served in the Battle of Mogadishu (Black Hawk Down) and motivational speaker drawing from his experiences as a Ranger.
Judging by the hole in the 20-year-old seasoned guitar that Keni plays, it's clear that he has paid his country music dues.
Not only is Thomas a singer and songwriter, and a former U.S. Army Ranger, but he's also the author of the book "Get It On," which is based on his heart-wrenching experiences in the chaotic 1993 Battle of Mogadishu.
"If no one ever read my book, the person who gained the most from it was me," said Thomas. "Funny thing is, when you write a book stressing the importance of leading by example, you then have to try and live up to it."
Another country music veteran was Billy Montana, who has written songs for super stars like Tim McGraw, Kenny Rogers and provided Garth Brooks with a number one hit, "More Than a Memory."
"It's an honor to be able to perform for people I admire and respect so much," said Montana. "I've never served in the military, but have always been so appreciative of the job they do and the sacrifices they make on a daily basis."
To round out the quintet of country musicians, was the booming baritone voice of Ray Scott, who has written hit songs for Randy Travis and Clay Walker.
"Though it pales in comparison to what soldiers do, for me this feels like a small way to give back for the sacrifice y'all make," said Scott.
One thing that all of these singer and song writers had in common besides their individual success was their giant sized hearts and their sincere appreciation for what the service members were doing in Afghanistan.
The performers took breaks in-between songs and fielded questions from the adoring fans that filled the small venue, which packed in approximately 200.
"Being a former soldier, coming over here means a great deal to me," said Thomas. "It's why I keep finding ways to get back. It's particularly gratifying for me because the military audience totally gets the message of the songs I sing. I'm preaching to the choir really."