New Chely Wright Recording to Benefit Stars for Stripes
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2004 Due to its overwhelming popularity among the troops in Southwest Asia, country music star Chely Wright is about to release a new single recording, "Bumper of My SUV," about the need for Americans to continue supporting the men and women fighting the war on terror.
Country music star Chely Wright tears up as she sings "Bumper
of My SUV" for troops in Iraq. Wright said she wrote the song in response to
another driver's response to her bumper sticker supporting the U.S. Marine
Corps. Photo courtesy of Stars for Stripes
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Half of the proceeds of the recording will go to Stars for Stripes, the nonprofit organization that sponsored Wright's recent 10-day, five-concert tour in Iraq and Kuwait.
Stars for Stripes provides quality entertainment to deployed troops, particularly those in remote outposts not typically visited during USO tours, explained founder, president and chief executive officer Judy Seale. The most recent tour, from Sept. 13 to 22, was Stars for Stripes' third to Southwest Asia. Armed Forces Entertainment funded the tour.
During the most recent tour, Wright presented one of the first performances of her new and yet-unrecorded song, "Bumper of My SUV." The lyrics describe a U.S. Marine Corps bumper sticker on Wright's vehicle a tribute to her brother, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Wright, who recently returned from Iraq and another motorist's response to it with an obscene gesture.
In her lyrics, Wright questions why the woman reacted as she did. "I guess I wanna know where she's been before she judges and gestures to me, 'cause she don't like my sticker for the U.S. Marines on the bumper of my SUV," she sings.
"So I hope that lady in her minivan turns on her radio and hears this from me, as she picks up her kids from their private school and drives home safely on our city streets or to the building where her church group meets," Wright continues. "Yeah, that's why I've got a sticker for the U.S. Marines on the bumper of my SUV."
Seale said the song brought an amazing response every time Wright performed it in Iraq and Kuwait, including standing ovations, cheers and tears in Wrights' eyes as well as those of the troops.
She said she was so moved by their reaction -- with so many asking her to record it as a message to the American people that she felt compelled to produce a recording.
"Thank you for the song and for acknowledging that we're not a bunch of warmongers," Wright said the deployed troops told her, adding, "Many of us believe that we are doing great things, and furthermore, we're just doing our jobs."
"I can't even describe how wonderful the song is," a sergeant wrote to the Stars for Stripes Web site following the concert at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Iraq. "It was great and brought a tear to just about everyone in the room's eye," added an airman in Iraq who attended one of the concerts.
The song has become a top title on Armed Forces Network radio, which has been playing the home demo tape Wright recorded after a previous trip to Iraq, then set aside until her latest return tour.
The troops praised Wright for coming to Iraq to entertain them, and Stars for Stripes for its sponsorship. "It was such a pleasure to have Chely come perform for us," an airman wrote to the Stars for Stripes site. "The daily rigor of being deployed in a hostile environment wears thin on one, and to have her here was a breath of fresh air."
"It helped remind me of home and give me a break from the daily grind here," agreed another soldier following the concert at Forward Operating Base Summerall. "Thank you for the work you and Stars for Stripes do for those of us in uniform. It means a great deal to me and others in my unit."
"You did what few have done," wrote another soldier in Iraq. "You put your life on the line to give the troops a good time and bring us a little joy. Guess what? It worked! We had fun!"
The trip was not without its low spots and reminders about the cost of war and freedom. During one show, a rocket was fired over the stage, although the round turned out to be a dud and no one was hurt.
During the closing days of the tour, Wright learned that a soldier she had met and posed for a photo with during her concert at Camp Summerall was killed in an ambush the following day.
"Learning that he lost his life the day after our performance was very sobering to our entire group," Seale said. "I do know that he had a great time at the concert and was so excited to meet Chely and have his photo taken with her. It is comforting to know that we were able to lift his spirits and see how much fun he was having that evening."
As the group left Baghdad for Kuwait on the return trip, they accompanied the coffin carrying the body of a U.S. civilian employee killed in Iraq. "It was definitely a reality check for us," Seale said of the experience, noting that the group remained "very subdued and thoughtful in respect during the flight. "Looking back," she said, "we feel it was an honor for us to have been able to accompany the body on this flight."
Yet Wright called the tour in Southwest Asia "the best trip of my life." Word is that additional visits to entertain the troops are in her future, including a trip back to the area of operations.
Seale said the tour was an exciting step forward for Stars for Stripes: the first time the organization brought a celebrity entertainer with a full band into Iraq and was able to tour from camp to camp each day. The group visited a school in Balad and village in Bayji City, and provided the first celebrity musical entertainment to be offered for troops in the International Zone, commemorating the Air Force's 57th birthday.