Please bear with me while I do a little rainy day venting…
For four months now I’ve been working with several other volunteers to try and get country stars to read a message of hope for a public service announcement that encourages military community members in crisis to reach out for help instead of resorting to suicide. The first round of the PSAs featured Hollywood stars reading a similar message and it’s been a huge success. We lose, on average, one veteran every 36 hours to suicide, but the Veteran’s Crisis telephone line has already directly prevented 16,000 callers from taking their own lives. And that — 16,000 — is the number that keeps me getting up and getting back to work on this project.
But here’s the problem — many of the stars who I thought would jump at a chance to do this very small thing that could have a major impact on the military community have told us no. We have had some great, truly moving and phenomenal responses from some stars. We’ve had some who have thanked us for allowing them to participate and have even begged us to let them know of other ways they can help — and I love those artists and will spend the rest of my life singing their praises. But the ones who I thought would be lining up to sit in front of our cameras and give us just 20 minutes of their time — in appreciation for the millions of dollars they’ve earned off marketing themselves as military supporters — have said that they’re either too busy or that they’re just not interested. To say that I’m disillusioned at this point would be a major understatement.
I’m from Nashville. I grew up around country music and I love country music, but I’m starting to hate that side of my hometown. For years now I’ve listened as the genre of music my hometown is best known for has cranked out military support songs and patriotic hits. Many of these artists are paid to perform on military bases, paid by MWR in fact, which — as you probably already know — is partially funded by surcharges at our commissaries and Exchanges. That means that troops, some of whom qualify for WIC and foodstamps, are paying their grocery money for these stars to come and sing the patriotic songs that earn these performers millions. And then we call and ask if that performer can spare about 20 minutes to read a script on camera in a studio in Nashville, we’ve even offered to fly a film crew to film some of the stars who are currently touring, and we sweeten the deal for them by reminding them of all the television networks that have already agreed to air the PSAs, and we still get doors slammed in our faces.
As a military family member, I feel used. I see my family and my friends’ families making tremendous sacrifices for this country. I see my friends’ bodies and minds forever damaged by combat and their kids suffering from years spent away from a deployed parent. Then I call up the representatives of artists who drape themselves in Old Glory and proudly present themselves as military supporters to their very patriotic fans, and I get a response like, “we just aren’t sure that fits with so-and-so’s image.”
I’m trying stay professional so I won’t name names. But I will say this, I’m not talking about one artist who has said no, or even 10 artists. I’m talking about dozens. Think of your favorite country stars. Think of all those red, white & blue songs you hear on the radio. Think of all those people you’ve seen perform, sell CDs — and get paid — on your military bases. Now consider that most of them have refused to help us. I’d love it if you would ask them why.