America Supports You: Singer's Support for Troops Comes From Heart
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 24, 2005 Country singer Chely Wright has partnered with the "America Supports You" program, a Defense Department effort to recognize citizens' support for the men and women of the armed forces and to communicate that support to servicemembers at home and abroad.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Chaplain) Dan Stallard talks with country singer Chely Wright during a March 22 autograph session at Henderson Hall military facility in Arlington, Va. Wright had visited the U.S. Marine base at Quantico, Va., earlier in the day. Stallard serves at the Navys chief of chaplains office. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The singer said she feels the program serves as a great hub for those who want to support the troops.
"I think America Supports You is important to the troops, because it's yet another way for us lay people back here who want to reach out in some way," Wright said. "It allows us to do that, whether it be through correspondence or care packages or going to a Web site and posting a message."
She added that ASY is important because, with the availability of Internet access, servicemembers overseas can get the message immediately that they have the support of the American people.
"I've been there with them when there's no communication, and I know what the morale is," she said. "And I've been there when the PX finally gets there ... and you can really feel the excitement. I think that America Supports You is just another way to augment the morale boost."
While Wright comes from a family with a long military tradition, she said that is not the only reason she supports the troops.
"I'm not Republican or a Democrat," Wright said. "I'm an American. That's why I support the troops."
Wright's support for the troops has deep roots.
She started performing at her local veterans hospital in Kansas at the tender age of 9. Those first performances were at the urging of her grandfather, a World War II veteran with 1st Infantry Division -- the "Big Red One."
"I'm so glad I had that early experience with the soldiers and the Marines and other people who had done their duty in Vietnam and Korea and World War II," Wright said during a March 23 interview, "because I got to understand it without prejudice of politics, without prejudice of religion.
"I was 9 and a guy told me 'My leg got shot off,"' Wright recalled. "And I said, 'Why were you there?'"
He told her he was there to protect and serve, the singer said.
What she learned from her conversations with the veterans is that war is sad and scary, she said. The latter part of that lesson was reinforced when her brother, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Chris Wright, told her he was headed to Iraq.
Before he left, he sent her a simple, round Marine Corps emblem bumper sticker.
She said she had never, ever put a bumper sticker on her car before. This one was different, though. With this one she never hesitated.
"I went downstairs and put it on the back of my vehicle,, Wright said, "a lot out of pride, but also out of fear. You know, I was, 'My brother's in a war. Wow, this is weird.'"
Wright started performing in support of the troops in 1994. But she said it's not really about the performance. It's about the time she spends talking with the troops afterward. Those appearances have made a deep and lasting impression on Wright. "It's been life-changing," she said.
Each year, she sets aside 10 days to two weeks to go overseas and perform for the troops, she said. Those shows overseas and the ones for troops here at home are all because of her profound appreciation for the troops and what they do, she said.