Stars for Stripes Brings Chely Wright to Iraq,
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2004 -- Country music
star Chely Wright of "Single White Female" fame is heading to
Kuwait and Iraq next week with her band to boost the troops'
morale with some foot-stomping entertainment.
Seale, president and chief executive officer for Stars for
Stripes, second from left, and country singer Chely Wright,
second from right, join airmen from the "Wolf Pack" at
Kunsan Air Force Base, South Korea, during a concert tour in
October 2003. Courtesy photo by Stars for Stripes
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);
high-resolution image available.
Wright's five-concert series, slated for Sept. 13 to 22, is
sponsored by Stars for Stripes, a nonprofit group committed to
providing quality entertainment to deployed troops —
particularly those in remote outposts not typically visited
during USO tours.
Founder, president and chief executive officer Judy Seale,
who manages a variety of musical artists in Nashville, said
participating in USO shows during Operation Desert Storm "opened
my eyes to the military and the fact that we have people serving
all over the world."
But Seale said she recognized that many of the bigger
entertainment shows, which often feature big-name entertainers,
gave concerts in large, fixed locations, too far away for some
deployed troops to enjoy.
So she established Stars for Stripes and began recruiting
stars willing to provide free concerts for servicemembers in
far-flung reaches of the world. A DoD organization, Armed Forces
Entertainment, pays for the tours.
The upcoming tour is Stars for Stripes' third to Southwest
Asia. Stars for Stripes sent two country music artists to the
theater for its Seasons Greetings Tour during the 2003 holiday
season, which included seven stops in Kuwait and 13 in Iraq.
This year's Summer Salute Tour in June and July included
concerts at 14 camps in Kuwait, Iraq, Djibouti and Qatar.
"There's no way to even estimate how many thousands of troops
we have visited just on those two tours, because we sometimes
hit three and four camps a day," Seale said.
The concerts were a bit more basic than at stateside venues,
with instrumentation generally limited to acoustics. During one
concert, country entertainer Jolie Edwards performed on top of a
freezer in a dining facility at a forward operating base in Iraq
— a testament to the remote outposts Stars for Stripes serves.
At another concert -- when singers Chalee Tennison and Danni
Leigh entertained the troops at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq,
this summer -- mortars hit the camp during the show. After
donning flak vests and helmets, the artists simply went on with
But Seale said the upcoming Chely Wright concert will
represent a big step forward for Stars for Stripes. Wright will
perform with her full band and stage equipment to be rented in
Kuwait, bringing full-production-value music to the troops.
Seale said the concerts are as meaningful to her and the
performers as their audiences. "It's a way to give back and say
'thank you' to the people who are allowing me to live the way I
live," she said. And although she knows the concerts "are good
for the troops," Seale said "it's the artists whose lives are
Among the program's top billings is Wright, a member of the
Stars for Stripes board, who has a long tradition of military
service. Her brother, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Christopher
Wright, recently returned from Iraq.
Wright said she was taught from a very young age "to do my
part to show my appreciation to those who served or are serving"
in the U.S. military. Her childhood lessons have evolved into an
unabashed love for the troops — a love she never fails to
exhibit when she steps onstage.
"I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I'm an American," Wright
told a crowd at a Labor Day weekend concert in Annapolis, Md.
"And whether you're for Kerry or for Bush, what's important is
that you show your support for our troops."
Wright traveled to the area a day early for the concert, at
Seale's urging, so she could visit wounded troops at Walter Reed
Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the National Naval
Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
"It was unreal. I can't put into words what an experience
that was," Wright told the crowd in Annapolis, as she described
meeting with troops who had lost arms, legs, even eyesight in
Iraq and Afghanistan. "I asked one of them where he wanted to do
his convalescent leave and he told me, 'Baghdad, ma'am.' That
pretty much says it all, doesn't it?" she asked.
The upcoming trip to Iraq will be Wright's second with Stars
for Stripes, which she called "an efficient, professional and
classy vehicle for entertainers of all types to 'give back.'"
Wright said her motivation for performing for the troops is
"selfish" in nature. "It simply makes me feel good, fills up my
heart, inspires me, galvanizes my appreciation for life and
freedom, and it just makes me feel like I'm doing something
valuable," she said.
But the country diva said she gets a special kick — and a lot
of pride -- when a servicemember comes up to her at a show in
the United States and says, "Hey, I saw your show in South
Korea. Thank you for coming all that way to bring a little bit
of home to us."
A new DVD/CD, slated for release this week, will feature
footage from Wright's trips to Japan, South Korea and the Middle
East to entertain the troops.
The highlight of her career, she said, was being named "Woman
of the Year" by the American Legion Auxiliary in 2003. "Although
I feel I don't deserve that distinctions, I cherish the
acknowledgement," Wright said.
More information about Stars for Stripes is posted on the
||Country singers Chalee Tennison and Danni Leigh
entertain the troops at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, July
5, 2004, during the Stars for Stripes Fourth of July tour.
The camp was hit by mortars during the show and, after
donning flak vests and helmets, the artists finished the
show wearing the gear. Courtesy photo by Stars for Stripes
||High resolution photo
||Country entertainer Jolie Edwards performs with Stars
for Stripes on top of a freezer in a dining facility at a
forward operating base in Iraq —a testament to the remote
outposts the organization serves. Courtesy photo by Stars
||High resolution photo