Heartland -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By CRYSTAL CAVINESS, United Press International
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NASHVILLE, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Aaron Tippin traveled a bit far for his Thanksgiving turkey.

Tippin and members of his band and crew left Nashville Nov. 24 for what likely will be a Thanksgiving to remember, as they celebrate the holiday with men and women in fatigues -- U.S. troops stationed in and around Afghanistan.


After landing safely and performing their first concert in Kyrgyzstan, Tippin sent an audio message broadcast via a Russian satellite to various members of the media on Thanksgiving Eve.

"We took a little nap this morning, woke up to the sound of jet fighters taking off, off on a mission somewhere I guess," Tippin, 44, said via a recorded audio message. "It's interesting and different."

Tippin's seeming nonchalance at being in the midst of a war situation comes from finding himself in a similar position more than a decade ago. He traveled to the Middle East with Bob Hope and another USO tour during the Persian Gulf War in 1990.

"I'm probably not as nervous as the first time I went," Tippin said at a press conference Nov. 22 -- an event held at the Tennessee Air National Guard Fuel Cell Hangar in Nashville, where a large, gray C-130 airplane served as a backdrop.


"(Then) I climbed on a 141 (airplane) with Bob Hope. When we dropped that door in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and I was staring out into a sea of camouflaged uniforms and everybody had M-16 barrels sticking up behind their heads, you realize, they're over here for business. At that time, it really hit me that I wasn't in my nice, friendly country anymore. I was in a place where there would soon be a war just across the line. I was afraid then.

"After I had been there a couple of hours, good grief, I saw how many Americans there were and they all had guns," he said. "I was as safe as I could be. I don't have any apprehensions like I did the first time. We could not be safer."

Tippin, who's known for such patriotic country songs as "You've Got To Stand For Something" and "Where the Stars and Stripes and The Eagle Flies," figured it was time for a repeat performance.

"I think it's time for us to go and do our duty," Tippin said. "You'll never meet a more appreciative audience than a bunch of military personnel."

When Tippin decided to travel to the Afghanistan area for Thanksgiving, he wanted to make the trip extra-special for the troops stationed there.


The "extra-special" touches included banners collected from country radio stations around the U.S. that have thousands of signatures from listeners and personal greetings called into a toll-free number during the past few weeks. The banners will be displayed around the stage area during the shows and the personal messages will be broadcast after the concert while Christmas music plays.

"We're trying to bring 'home' to the troops," he said, "because they can't go home right now."

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