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Memorial Day Celebrations: Country Stars Salute Our Troops

Mario Tama, Getty Images

Kids are celebrating the end of the school year while dads are firing up the grill for Memorial Day, which officially kicks off the summer for most folks. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, because people went to cemeteries to put flowers on the graves of family and friends who had fallen during the Civil War. By the turn of the 20th century, Memorial Day celebrated Americans who have sacrificed their lives in all wars.

The Boot has compiled quotes from some of your favorite country artists about what Memorial Day means to them.

“My dad was a second lieutenant in the Army,” Dierks Bentley says. “It’s amazing, he served in World War II, he was in Japan, and he doesn’t tell me too many stories about it, but I know he really enjoyed his time in the Army. He grew up in a town of 1200 people and the army was a chance to go overseas and see some of the world. He really enjoyed the men in his company and lost some friends over there. He doesn’t talk too much about that aspect of it, but he has nothing but good memories of being able to serve and be part of that.”

Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts says Memorial Day is one of his favorite times of year. “I’m a huge history buff, and I have the utmost respect for the military and the price that they have paid for us, and continue to pay for us, to enjoy the freedoms that we do today,” he says. “All too often, we go about our lives here in America taking things for granted that have been paid for in blood by so many people that have come before us. I hope that we never get to the point to where we’re so complacent that we forget those people that are over there putting their lives on the line for us day in and day out.”

“Memorial Day has always meant something special to me,” agrees bandmate Gary LeVox, who has friends and relatives who served in the Armed Forces. “We went to Iraq in 2005 and it really changed all three of our lives. You never know the price of freedom until you stand in the middle of a combat zone in a foreign country with 18- and 19-year-old kids who are absolute studs. They are the true root of what red, white and blue means, and that’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Eric Church says Memorial Day to him is about freedom. “It’s about the soldiers I come in contact with on the road. And not only that, to be able to make the music that I’m able to make, to say what I want to say, and that freedom to be able to do those things and to be in a country where we’re able to play that stuff on the radio.

“I don’t think you’re going to have any America argue that America isn’t the best place to live, and I’m certainly one of them,” continues the North Carolina native. “I’m very proud to be from here and very proud that we have the soldiers. I know there are a lot of other countries out there in the world that don’t want to live the way we do, and that’s fine, they can keep living the way they are, but I’m very proud of it … Celebrate those freedoms, and celebrate the people that are over fighting for those freedoms.”

Toby Keith is not a fan of war but is a major supporter of the troops, having gone to the Middle East for ten years now to entertain. The country superstar does everything he can to show servicemen and women that there are people who care. “I’m anti-war, but if you have to go fight, then you’ve got to go in gung-ho and protect as many of us as you can,” he insists. “War is an ugly deal, and it can’t be fought as sterile as they made the Gulf War look like it was –- all you do is fly planes over and hit key targets and move them out. It’s not that nice. It’s bloody — women die, children die, men die, daughters, sons, mothers. It’s an ugly thing. I wish we didn’t have to go to war.”

Craig Morgan was in the Army and is proud of the years he served. The singer frequently performs at military bases both in the U.S. and abroad. “The most important thing people need to remember [is] all of those men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he says. “We are here to remember. This country was established and built on that sacrifice: the blood that’s been shed and will continue to be shed. Fortunately for us, we live in a country where a very minute portion of people are willing to do that. Only one-percent of the people in this country serve in the military, so we need to remember that one-percent that day. That’s the people that we celebrate on Memorial Day.”

Keith Urban, who wrote and recorded his single “For You” for the film “Act of Valor,” says it was very inspiring for him to hang out with a group of Navy SEALS, which the movie is about.

“They have a mantra, they say ‘the only easy day was yesterday’ and they had this spirit of brotherhood very specific to the Seals. Military, in general, have this very strong brotherhood code; it’s a particular kind of thing in the Seals. As was the testament to Lt. Roark, who is the lead guy in the film; when he was interviewed he talked about the funerals he had been to, and he says ‘there isn’t really any one of us who isn’t just a little bit jealous of the guy who’s died.’ I heard that’s a particular way of being that I cannot relate to. That is an unbelievable depth of commitment and conviction.

“I can’t imagine what that level of dedication is to the degrees that the SEALS live,” Keith continues. “But since finding my wife and since having our children, I definitely feel that sense of conviction and protectiveness and defensiveness of my family.”

Montgomery Gentry‘s Eddie Montgomery says he wants everyone in the military to know how much he thanks them and their families for the sacrifices they make. “One thing I want to let them know is that we love all of them to death, and their families,” he says. “We want to thank their families for letting them protect us. [And thank them for letting us] be and say and do whatever we want to in this great country, because that is why this is the greatest country in the world. We definitely can’t wait until this war is over and they can come home, and we throw a hell of a party for them.”

Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town talks about a young woman she and bandmate Kimberly Schlapman knows who is handling things at home while her husband serves in Afghanistan.

“It’s such a huge sacrifice what these men and women do for us, not only the ones that are serving, but the families that are left here at home. Kimberly and I met a young girl … she’s 21 years old, and she has a third baby, and her husband has served multiple times overseas. She’s raising these children at home and doing a great job and the best that she can, and he’s serving our country.

“He’s making a monstrous sacrifice, but so is she, and so are those children. We just can’t take it for granted. It’s just a huge commitment that they make, and what an honor. We love to be able to sing for them and entertain them and to say thank you whenever we can.”

Watch Keith Urban’s ‘For You’ Video


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