Grand Ole Opry Broadcasts Message to Troops: 'America Supports You'
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 24, 2005 Servicemembers all over the world, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan, got a big show of support from the country music capital of the world April 23 when Grand Ole Opry faithful stood with postcards and shouted on the count of three before television cameras: "America Supports You!"
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld joins country star Dolly Parton on stage at the Grand Ole Opry during a live broadcast in Nashville, Tenn., on April 23. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The special broadcast was part of the Defense Department's "America Supports You," campaign, which aims to showcase and communicate American support to the men and women of the armed forces.
The Grand Ole Opry Live program, which this week was hosted by country music legend Dolly Parton, was aired live from Nashville, Tenn., on the Defense Department's American Forces Television.
The program is fed to 177 stations throughout the world, including a live feed to Baghdad that aired about 4 a.m. local time.
Welcoming the overseas audience, Parton yelled out in her familiar country voice, "Goooood morning Baghdad!"
"I don't know what they are doing up that time of morning," Parton chided the audience. "I guess working."
Performers at the live show, which included Parton, The Grascals, Hanna-McEuen and Jo Dee Messina, dedicated songs to servicemembers. And in the audience, Parton welcomed a surprise special guest on stage, the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry family, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
After thanking Parton, the other artists and country music lovers from around the world for supporting the military, the secretary presented a special message to troops watching the program overseas and those listening here at home.
"I'd like to say to each of them, volunteers all, 'Thank you so much for your service to the country. And thank you to your families and your loved ones as well because they too sacrifice, and we appreciate them,'" he said.
"And each of the men and women in uniform needs to know that the great sweep of history is for freedom, and they are on freedom's side. They are on that side, and it's the right side," he said. "So God bless them, and God bless their families, and God bless this wonderful country of ours."
On stage, Parton also reminded the secretary that May is Military Appreciation Month at the Opry. During May, she said, servicemembers and their families will be given free admission to the Opry Live show.
"Come see us in the month of May and you can get in free. We love free don't we," she said.
Parton told the audience that she was happy to host the show in partnership with the Defense Department's America Supports You campaign "to show our wonderful soldiers all over the world how much we appreciate and support them.