America Supports You: Singer Aims to Play at Every Military Base
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 24, 2006 Raymond Harris hopes to do something no other performer is doing. The country music singer plans to spend five years on a tour to every possible military installation to support America's troops.
America Supports You member Raymond Harris (center) poses with Army Lt. Gen. Russell Honore and Army Col. Angela Manos-Sittnick at Fort Gillem, Ga., Dec. 14. A country music entertainer, Harris is in the midst of a five-year tour of military installations to support America's troops. Photo by Sherrye Ehrenberg
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
In the past 13 months, Harris has played to crowds at 70 military installations, all in the continental United States, but over the next four years he expects his effort will take him to 500 bases around the globe.
"It's all just to say thanks to the troops and their families for the job they're doing," Harris said. "They don't get enough credit for what they're doing, and they've got a tough job."
Harris said he came up with the big tour idea while playing a show at Fort Campbell, Ky., in 2005. He decided to pull out of several country shows right away, quickly filling much of his performing schedule with military shows. "I dropped everything right where we were that day," he said. "Whatever was on the schedule got erased, and we filled it in with this."
Harris mentioned two particularly memorable and out-of-the way places he has played so far: Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and Fort Polk, La. "Fort Polk is out there," he said. "But it was good. Had some gator and some good southern fried food."
At every installation he visits, Harris brings guitars for the troops to sign. He expects to take those guitars -- 300 of them -- to the Grand Ole Opry to be placed in a museum.
Harris also owns a monster truck, called the "Music City Crusher," which he brings to his shows. "I put eight seats in the back, and so now when I make appearances on the installations, I've got the Music City Crusher giving rides to the troops," he said.
Although he is working on a new album right now, Harris said he is already planning his next one, to be called "America's Song." The new album, which he will start recording in spring 2007, will feature not just Ray Harris, but also contributions from America's troops. Retired and active-duty military members will be invited to submit song lyrics to Harris's Web site. He expects to record a full album, splitting royalties with his military collaborators.
Harris's site also features a link to "America Supports You," a Defense Department initiative facilitating grassroots and corporate support for the nation's troops and their families.
"The best thing in the world is shaking their hand, you know, meeting them one-on-one," he said, recalling an event on the flight line at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "I met some guys and shook their hands straight off the plane, straight from Iraq. ... You feel it when you shake their hands. It was just incredible."