Country music star Trace Adkins rounded out his most recent USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour in support of the military with an enthusiastic performance at Fort Benning’s Wetherby Field Friday night.
In front of a crowd of more than 5,000 military and civilian fans bundled in coats and gloves to brave the cold weather, Adkins, sporting a custom 3rd Infantry Division jersey given by Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, performed many old favorites, including “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” “Ladies Love Country Boys” and “You’re Gonna Miss This.”
The concert mirrored a performance in Baghdad the day prior, said Adkins, with the exception of the song “Still Love You,” which he performed for the spouses in the crowd Friday.
Adkins, who met with key leaders prior to the show, said the tour was a way to “pass along a little gratitude and do something for the guys on the ground.”
“One of the selfish reasons why I do these (tours) is because someday I want to be able to look at my grandkids and say ‘Y’know, I didn’t have a hand in shaping history but I shook the hands of the people who did,’” said the country singer.
The performance concluded Adkins’ third USO tour to the Middle East, a nine-day trip with performances for more than 7,800 troops in Bahrain, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dominique Unrein, a mother of two whose spouse is currently serving at Joint Base Balad, Afghanistan, said the opportunity to see Adkins in concert made her feel closer to her husband.
“I talked to him on the phone this morning and told him I was going to see Trace tonight, and he said he just saw him,” she said prior to the show.
“I’ll be listening to exactly the same thing he was and it gives us something we’ve been able to do together.”
Staff Sgt. David Springer, a drill sergeant with 30th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception), said USO tours such as this one show Soldiers “that America still cares about them they are not forgotten.”
Springer has deployed three times in the last nine years and said Soldiers overseas appreciate organizations like the USO.
“It helps them keep their minds away from being homesick, worrying about what’s outside the wire it builds up morale,” said the drill sergeant. USO senior vice president of entertainment and programming, John Pray, said the USO is proud to bring “A-list talent” to Soldiers and families who look forward to seeing their favorite music stars.
Fort Benning was chosen as the final stop, he said, in order to welcome home the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, which recently completed its fourth deployment to Iraq.
Trace Adkins on being overseas: “The first time I went on a USO tour I didn’t know what to expect. I asked (entertainer) Wayne Newton what to expect and he said ‘expect to feel guilty when you come home. Don’t worry about it; it’s normal — everyone feels that way.’ That was all he said. I didn’t know what he was talking about until I came home from the tour. “You go over there hoping to raise their spirits and make them feel better, give them a taste of home but you come home feeling like they did more for you than you did for them. You feel so proud and your heart is full, your faith in your country renewed, and you wonder if you did anything to make them feel as good as they made you feel.”