What first inspired you to get involved with performing for the troops?

I’ve always been a huge supporter of our service men and women. I have family members who have served and a lot of friends that are in service. I’ve always wanted to participate in the USO tours and it is something I’ve always felt is important. If you are in a position to do something like that, then you should do it.

There seems to be a connection between country artists and performing for the troops. Do you think there is a specific reason that is the case?

I've found that it is a very eclectic group of people that go overseas and entertain the troops. We’ve been a part of the holiday chairman tours where the chairman or Joint Chiefs of Staff will select a group of people and it is anyone from an artist to a comedian, sometimes actors and many athletes — anyone who can show their support.

SHOWING HER SUPPORT:
The singer urges, "You might not be able to hop on a plane and fly to Afghanistan, but everyone has the opportunity to say thank you and do their part. And no part is too small."

You have spent holidays overseas. What is that experience like?

Once we were in Afghanistan and it was definitely my most memorable Christmas I’ve ever had. It was great, it is such an amazing thing to be a part of. I think it’s important for our service men and women to know that we don’t take what they do for granted and that we support them and care about them. We have their backs because they have ours.

What are some of your favorite memories of going overseas and performing?

My favorite memories are definitely the conversations I’ve had with them. So many of the troops are incredibly young, which really blows me away.

They have families back home and they miss them. One of the most memorable moments I have was in Afghanistan on Memorial Day. There was a little chapel on the bay and we sat up, my band guys and myself and several of the soldiers that could play instruments. We sat up all night after the show in the little chapel and had what we call a “pickin’ party.” All of the soldiers who could play guitar or mandolin joined in. We had several different instruments there and just had a little jam. Everyone sang songs and it was really special and in such a unique atmosphere.

What are some of the best ways for average Americans to give back to our troops and veterans?

There are so many things you can do. You can send care packages overseas during the holidays. Even just a simple thank you if you see someone in uniform at a Starbucks. Buy them a coffee and thank them for their service. Little things like that mean the most and go the furthest. If you are in the airport or at lunch and you see an elderly man wearing a Vietnam hat or a veteran’s hat, simply walk up and say, “I noticed your hat, thank you for your service,” and their eyes light up. I think it boils down to common courtesy and respect. They have earned that.

"I just want to bring them a little piece of home and a little comfort. I think everyone has the opportunity to do their part."

What do hope you leave with the troops?

I just want to bring them a little piece of home and a little comfort. I think everyone has the opportunity to do their part. You might not be able to hop on a plane and fly to Afghanistan, but everyone has the opportunity to say thank you and do their part. And no part is too small.

What upcoming tours do you have planned?

We are planning our 8th USO tour, so that is really exciting. I’m not sure when or where we will be going but my guys, my band and my crew guys, always look forward to it.