It wouldn’t be very hard to put together a list of patriotic songs when it comes to country music. The genre and the military both go hand-in-hand, as well as its artists. While there are country music artists who continue to actively show their support for U.S. military troops through their work, the connection to the military runs much deeper for a handful of other country stars.
Before tapping into fame, a few stars actually spent their time serving the country. While the trend of going from military member to the top of the charts is more familiar to some of country music’s traditional artists, there may be a few on this list that might shock you.
Here are 10 country stars who have served in the military.
10. Craig Morgan
Craig Morgan has worn many hats in his lifetime, and some of them were donned in the military. The veteran spent nearly two decades collectively serving in both active duty and in the reserves, and working his way up in the ranks where he eventually became staff sergeant.
Although the country music singer could have possibly retired with the Army, he chose to follow his musical talent into a career after gaining enough positive feedback from a large number of fellow army men.
9. George Jones
During the Korean War in the 1950s, the legendary George Jones was a U.S. Marine stationed in California. Although “The Possum” was never actually deployed during the war, he served there for three years. The singer cut his first song, “No Money in This Deal” following his military role.
8. Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson’s journey to country music stardom may have taken awhile, but his time spent in the military was cut short due to back problems. Before ever collaborating with Johnny Cash, both the “Red Headed Stranger” and the “Man in Black” singers trained at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Years later, Nelson continues to show his support for military troops. In 2014, he joined President Barack Obama to honor soldiers during the “A Salute to Troops: In Performance at the White House” PBS taping.
7. Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson kept the family tradition alive during his time in the Army following in his father Lars’ footsteps. Prior to joining, however, he received a degree at Pomona College and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to study further at Oxford University.
During his time spent in the military, Kristofferson worked his way up in the ranks from helicopter pilot to Captain, and spent time stationed in West Germany. Although the star was offered the opportunity to teach English in the Army, he chose to follow his dream of becoming an artist.
6. Jerry Reed
Unlike some artists who find their music talent during breaks in the military, Jerry Reed tapped into the music world prior to enlisting. However, when his career didn’t take off like he’d hoped, the rockabilly star joined the army.
During his two years of service, Reed played in a band called Circle A Wrangler and even got his creative juices flowing penning a No 1. hit-song for Porter Wagoner. Following the military, the singer signed with Columbia Records, and the rest is history!
5. George Strait
The Texas native enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1971 where he served for four years and honed his musical craft playing in the bands Rambling Country and Santee. Post military, George Strait showed his support for the military by raising funds for troops in more ways than one.
On every stop of his Cowboy Runs Away tour, the “Troubadour” singer, along with Bank of America, Quicken Loans and the Military Warriors Support Foundation, selected one wounded war hero and gifted him/her with a brand new home.
4. James Otto
James Otto, who was born on the Fort Lewis Army Base in Washington State served in the U.S. Navy for two years. Keeping it all in the family, the “Soldier and Jesus” singer followed in the footsteps of both his grandfather, a Korean War veteran and his father, an Army drill sergeant.
3. Jamey Johnson
While there are a handful of country artists that enlisted in the military shortly after high school, Jamey Johnson chose to enlist later on in life. The “In Color” singer dropped out of college to join the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming a country music star. He served for eight years, and climbed his way up in the ranks as Corporal.
2. Conway Twitty
The late Conway Twitty could have easily been considered a triple threat in his early days. Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, the singer was not only talented in the musical arena, he was also a gifted baseball player, too. Drafted during the Korean War, Jenkins delayed an offer to play for the Philadelphia Phillies.
During his time in the military and in a twist of fate, the “Hello Darlin'” singer fine tuned his musical skills with the country band, Cimarrons. After serving time, the singer turned down a second Phillies contract to follow his true passion. He then jumped a few record labels before earning his legendary status with more than 50 hit-songs.
1. Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash, whose military name was John R. Cash, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1950. After time spent training at Lackland Air Force Base (the same base as Willie Nelson) and Brooks Air Force Base, Cash’s role was to intercept information via Morse Code in Landsberg, Germany.
While in the military, Cash may have been one of the first to learn about Joseph Stalin’s death. He also kept busy harnessing his musical craft by writing the hit-song, “Folsom Prison Blues” and forming a band called “The Landsberg Barbarians”.