He walks out with sandy blond hair tucked under a baseball cap, beard well trimmed and as the band clusters around him to run up the stairs to the stage, Craig Morgan yells, “Let’s get um!”
The crowd jumps to their feet as he trots up to the microphone, waving his arms invitingly. “Wow, there sure are a lot of you!” he yells. The cheers are deafening as strains of “Redneck Yacht Club” echo across the blazing hot tarmac of Fort Bragg’s Fairgrounds Aug. 8. Morgan sweeps the microphone off the stage and starts to sing: “I’m meetin’ my buddies out on the lake . . . We’re headed out to a special place we love . . . That just a few folks know.”
Fort Bragg is a special place for Morgan and the reason he returned to perform a free concert. Morgan spent over 10 years of active duty serving in the Army’s 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, stationed at Fort Bragg for most of that time.
Many of Morgan’s songs are inspired by his time in the service, but songwriting wasn’t the first thing he turned to after leaving the military. Having made the initial choice to steer clear of a career in music, Morgan racked up a working-man’s resume, taking on work as an emergency medical technician, a contractor, a sheriff ’s deputy, and a Wal-Mart assistant dairy manager.
It wasn’t until he landed a job in Nashville, Tenn., singing demos for Atlantic Records that he decided singing was the thing for him.
Since then, Morgan has scored five, top 10 Billboard singles, including the number one “That’s What I Love About Sunday.”
In 2008, Craig came to Fort Bragg to help fill care boxes for Soldiers and give one of his first concerts on a military base. Since then, Morgan and his band have performed at over 20 military installations across the nation.
Mark Day, head of Craig Morgan’s public relations team, took a few minutes to talk before last week’s show.
“It’s so great to be back in Fort Bragg again. You know, it’s such an honor to work with Craig. He has such a heart for our Soldiers. In fact, he was awarded the 2006 USO Merit Award for his support of our troops,” he said.
The award should be no surprise. Morgan’s tireless efforts to support the troops are the highlight of his career.
On the day of the concert, Morgan and a task force of volunteers from the USO stuffed over 2,000 care boxes for deployed troops. Cindy Miller was one of the volunteers who worked to fill those boxes. “I just wanted to help the troops. They need all the support we can give them.” she said.
Morgan knows how important it is to show the troops just how much he cares. “We get to live how we live because of our men and women in the armed forces. You know, we tend to get so caught up in our everyday problems that we can forget those who are overseas fighting for our freedom. But these problems ain’t nothing if you’re far away from home. So I take every chance I get to thank our Soldiers for their service.”
Fort Bragg Soldiers definitely felt that support during the concert. Martin Jagodinski has been a Craig Morgan fan for as far back as he can remember.
“I’m a big country music fan, but Craig Morgan’s music is special. I gotta say, ‘Redneck Yacht Club’ brings me back home to Wisconsin. “Me and my buddies, we started our own yacht club in honor of Craig Morgan,” he said with a wide grin.
As the sun set over the fairgrounds, strains of a song inspired by Craig’s time in the service ring over the hushed crowd. It’s a song that every Soldier on Fort Bragg lives and one that Morgan isn’t afraid to tell.
“I don’t know why I left but I know it won’t be long . . . till I get back home . . . They gave me a green uniform and black boots for my feet . . . Eighteen and wild as hell, I thought it would be neat . . . They put me on a plane to some strange and foreign land . . . I said, good-bye to mom and dad and hello to Uncle Sam . . . Once I was a Soldier and not afraid to die . . . Now I’ma little older and not afraid to cry . . . Everyday I’m thankful just to be alive.”