Washington, D.C. - American Forces Press Service - infoZine - By John J. Kruzel -
The Pentagon honored music legend Charlie Daniels here today with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service for his support of military personnel.
Perhaps best known for his chart-topping platinum single, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," Daniels has played concerts for servicemembers at military installations around the world. The musician, who has been entertaining troops with his genre-blending style of country, blues and jazz for more than 35 years, says his life-long patriotism was born during World War II.
"I remember the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and I have taken patriotism into my heart, I have taken the military into my heart, and it has been there ever since," Daniels said.
"The more I go among the military, the more I am convinced that you folks are the best America's got.
"It is an honor and a privilege to be able to come to wherever the military is, in whatever part of the world they happen to be in, to entertain them," he said.
The two Pentagon officials who presented the framed award citation and medal to Daniels took turns thanking him for his decades of steadfast support for U.S. troops. "This is an important opportunity for us to say 'Thank You' to Charlie Daniels for his very long service to the men and women in uniform," Michael L. Dominguez, principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said. "He's performed for them in more than 20 different installations in countries across the globe, volunteering his time to do what he does best, and to bring them a little bit of America and a little bit of 'Thank You' from the people of America for the service they provide for our country."
In addition to visiting troops at bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea and elsewhere, Daniels started Operation Heartstrings in November 2005. The program to date has donated 100 Gibson guitars, as well as drums, keyboards, microphones, and more than 13,000 pieces of musical accessories to deployed servicemembers.
Brig. Gen. Mari Kaye Eder, deputy chief of Army Public Affairs, was elated to finally talk to the man who she's been listening to since childhood. "I'm thrilled to be here with Charlie Daniels; I grew up with him, though he doesn't know that," she said. "Every Sunday after church, my dad would play his records."
Wherever Daniels goes, he has friends in uniform and throughout the vast network of armed service personnel and family members, Eder said. "It's my honor to be here to represent just a few of them today," she added.
Daniels' multimedia CD and DVD offering titled "Live From Iraq" is set for release tomorrow. The Charlie Daniels Band recorded the music portion during the group's 2006 visit to bases around Iraq, and the bonus DVD features concert footage and video of the band interacting with military members serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Addressing servicemembers gathered here, Daniels thanked the men and women in uniform for their service to their country.
"I want to thank you for making America free," he said. "Without you there would be no America."