Lee Greenwood sings God Bless the USA with Cowan Elementary School third graders at their annual patriotic play the school holds to show appreciation for Veterans Day and those who served in the military. He accepts the Key to the City (lower photo) from Cowan Mayor Joyce Brown at a luncheon for veterans.
—Staff Photos by Seth Byrd
Every year Cowan Elementary School students put on a patriotic play for Veterans Day, but 2017’s chapter was the most unique one to date.
The final act at the end of the play featured country music and American icon Lee Greenwood singing his famous God Bless The USA song that has been one of the most lasting tributes to veterans of all time.
Greenwood does numerous gestures for veterans across the country and has a very good grasp of the sacrifices veterans make when going to war for the United States.
It just so happen that Cowan fit into his patriotic-themed schedule, much to the delight of Franklin County residents who attended Tuesday’s special tribute at the school.
Cowan Mayor Joyce Brown took an additional step by giving Greenwood a key to the city at a veterans luncheon, sponsored by Citizens Tri-County Bank.
Greenwood explained how his personal patriotic movement began.
He said that although his father was a veteran, he personally did not get the call to serve in the same way and neither did his sons. He added that to get closer to the patriotic commitment his father had, he felt compelled to pen God Bless The USA.
“The line I won’t forget is the men who died … That made me a hero and a champion for the military,” Greenwood said. “I then recognized I have to do a lot of things for them.”
He said he is personally involved with a group from Houston, Texas, called “Helping a Hero” that builds homes for wounded warriors.
Greenwood said a lot of his respect for the military and veterans comes from his father joining the Navy and the sacrifice he made in doing so. He said he takes the opportunity to help disabled veterans very seriously with the home development effort.
“I have worked with the military for 35 years and have done 35 USO tours all over the world,” he said. “I recognize the sacrifice, including my father who joined the Navy right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.”
Greenwood shed his thoughts on the recent national anthem protests and talked about how he feels the platform is wrong, although he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the right to protest.
“I mentioned this about four years ago — thank God for sporting events because it’s the one place you will hear the national anthem and everybody gets the chance to stand up and recognize the beauty of their country,” he said. “Now we have people in the NFL making a point about social injustice, economic injustice, and racial injustice.
“I get the point, but the platform is wrong. You don’t disrespect the nation to make your point. Take the uniform off, call a press conference — and I am sure they’re powerful enough to do that — then make you’re point.”
Greenwood also touched on how the Tennessee hills made it into God Bless The USA and how it was, thanks to his producer, that the key phrase made the final recording cut.
Although he was not raised in Tennessee, his producer, Jerry Crutchfield, from Paducah, Kentucky, made the connection because he went to Murray State, near the Tennessee border.
“I went … I love that,” Greenwood said.
He said he was impressed with Cowan students and their performance and how it’s important for children to learn about respecting one’s country.
“It’s important to note that people take care of the children,” Greenwood said. “But this presentation of patriotism — the theme being we love our country — they have to learn that lesson early on.
“You can’t disrespect anything about you’re country. It gives you the right to be free and have your own voice. So the lessons they gave here today made me extremely impressed. The kids did a great job.”
Greenwood explained he has a direct link to the stage through a family member who is in college studying the art.
“I understand when they are out there on stage how quickly they learn, but everyone was really cool and confident in what they did,” he said, referring to how the Cowan students rose to their theatrical challenge.