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Patriotic Article
Heroes and Patriots
By Van E. Harl

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Country Star Chely Wright and Veterans' Support
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Occasionally I receive a book that has been sent to me for review. Since I write a veteran/military related column, in most cases that is the type of publications I get. I had a CD sent to me entitled Patriotic Country 2. It has seventeen patriotic songs on it that have been donated by country recording artists. Profits from the sale of the CD go to help support the Armed Services YMCA. I was familiar with all of the songs on the CD except one.

Darryl Worley's; “Have You Forgotten”, Merle Haggard's; “Okie from Muskogee” and Johnny Cash's; “Ragged Old Flag” are examples of the type of patriotic music you will hear. The song that really got my attention was one I had not heard before. “The Bumper of My SUV” by Chely Wright sort of reached out of my truck's radio and grabbed me. She was singing about driving in

 

Van E. Harl
Van E. Harl

her vehicle with a US Marine Corps sticker on the bumper, when a lady in a minivan flipped her off. Apparently the women, was not fond of Miss Wright's politics. The reason she had the Marine sticker on her vehicle, was because her brother is a career Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant, with a tour in the Gulf already under his belt.

I tracked down Miss Wright's “people” in Nashville and asked if she could call me and she did. Chely Wright comes from a long line of veterans. Her grandfather served during WWII in the “Big Red One,” the Army's First Infantry Division, which saw major combat in that war. Her father was in aircraft maintenance in the Navy during Vietnam and her brother is a Senior NCO in the Marine Corps.

Chely Wright is not a veteran, but she has long personal history of supporting veterans and active duty military with her music. She comes from a musical family and she advised me how at the age of ten she was taken to VA hospitals in the Kansas City area to perform for the veterans. Her grandfather told her she needed to do this and for her to remember what these veterans had done for our country.

Miss Wright wrote “The Bumper of My SUV” and then filed it away, with no intention on publishing the song. In the body of the song she asked the lady in the minivan just where she thought freedom comes from and what had that person done to help our nation. Miss Wright was concerned she might come off a little too strong for a main-stream recording. While touring and performing for our troops in Iraq and Kuwait she found the song in a stack of her papers and had her band learn the music, just in case she wanted to sing the song. It turned out to be a crowd pleaser and after receiving multiple standing ovations from her first performance of the song, she used “Bumper” (as she had labeled it in her files) in every show for the rest of the tour. She still had no plans to record it, but the young troops in her audience kept insisting they needed a copy to play after she went back to the “real world.”

Chely Wright was, in her own words a “band geek” in high school and has a strong drive to support music programs. “When money is tight in school budgets, the arts tend to be the first programs that have to take cuts” Miss Wright advised me. With this in mind she founded the Reading, Writing and Rhythm program in 1999. She holds fund raising concerts, drawing on volunteer Country and Western talent to help her perform, with the proceeds going to support quality music education in American's public schools. Band-kids do better in school and that equates to doing better in life.

Chely Wright has performed for the “troops' in Korea, Japan, Iraq and Kuwait. She has been to Walter Reed Army Medical Center multiple times to visit some of our most seriously wounded veterans. And, now she is headed back to the “desert” with an organization called Stars for Stripes, which brings big name performers to the troops in some of the smallest and out-of-the-way places. Forward locations that the major “shows” do not go out to perform for the troops. Troops fighting on the front lines, like her grandfather did in WW II and her Marine brother did in this current war on terrorism.

Chely Wright, aim high and Semper Fi.

By Van E. Harl
Copyright 2005

About Author:
Major Van E. Harl, USAF Ret., was a career police officer in the U.S. Air Force. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Major Harl is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School, the Air Force Squadron Officer School and the Air Command and Staff College. After retiring from the Air Force he was a state police officer in Nevada.

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