Craig Morgan’s life was built in and through the ashes of loss, his ever-present Christian faith and deep-rooted values like service to country. But it was the loss of his son that led to writing his memoir, “God, Family, Country.”
Born Craig Morgan Greer, becoming a famous singer wasn’t on his list of things to accomplish in life – even though his roots were planted just outside Nashville and his dad was in a band. His eye was always on service. After high school, Morgan became a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician. He was also a police officer for a time.
In 1986, he enlisted in Army and thought he’d serve till they forcibly dragged him out.
“There’s the term, ‘Once a soldier, always a soldier,’ and that will forever be true for me,” Morgan said. “I can honestly say I’m truly grateful for what has happened and has taken place. But there’s still even today, there’s days where I wish that I were back … It’s just who we are. I tell people [that] law enforcement officers, soldiers, they all share that same gene – even EMTs, paramedics – probably even doctors and nurses, I’d venture to say. There’s a gene within our genetic makeup that requires us to want to do for others. A sense of service.”
He served on active duty for almost 10 years with the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions as a forward observer, which included a combat deployment to Panama during Operation Just Cause in 1989. His time working alongside the CIA, Green Berets and Navy SEAL Teams on a covert mission are detailed in his memoir.
“I had a John Wayne moment. I think I talked about it in the book where we were walking down the street and there was a grenade in the road. And the spoon was on the grenade but the pin had been pulled. And I just walked up and picked it up and stuck a needle in there where the pin went. Everyone else was freaking out and I didn’t even realize what I was doing at the time,” Morgan laughed.
Getting his platoon of soldiers home safe from Panama was one of his proudest moments during his time with the Army. It was during that deployment the seeds of a career in music started to bloom. Morgan writes about bringing his guitar on each trip, singing and playing for his friends.
After returning from deployment to Fort Polk, he started driving to Nashville on the weekends to write and perform. He got better and better, he said. Soon it was difficult to manage his songwriting on a part-time basis.
Morgan writes about being encouraged to pursue music by his father and higher ups in the Army, including Gen. David Petraeus.
After almost 10 years, he decided to transition to the Army Reserve and go all in on songwriting. It wasn’t easy and money was tight. He wrote about how his wife, Karen, also missed Army life terribly – though she was nothing but supportive of his decision.
By 1999, artists like Joe Diffie and Alabama were recording his songs. He’d also started honing in his singing ability and performing more often. After being signed to a record label and releasing his first album (the self-titled “Craig Morgan”), which did well, showing up for drill weekends at Fort Campbell became a challenge.
In 2004, he transitioned out of the reserves and committed to music completely.
“I think I still have a lot of the same characters and morals and values. There’s no question about that. But the military taught me a lot,” Morgan said. “It taught me a lot about myself and made me a stronger person. It gave me a different perspective on how fortunate we are, and I think had I not gone over there, I might not have that same depth of appreciation for the freedoms that we have here had I not seen how underprivileged other nations are.”
In between mission trips, prioritizing his family at home and taking part in a multitude of television shows and continually recording new music, Morgan made his mark.
But his world was shattered with the accidental death of his son, Jerry, in 2016.
His Christian faith carried him through. Though he writes about remembering not wanting to write a song about it all, “My Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost” poured out of him through tears and grief a few years later.
And it went viral.
“I don’t believe that for one second God took my son from me in order to make me a stronger Christian. I believe that the devil took my son and God allowed it because God knew that my faith was so strong that I would not believe that the devil wasn’t going to win,” Morgan said. “And that by doing that other people would come to know Him. And that’s a difficult thing to live with.
“When you think about Christ, and God gave up Christ, I’m not trying to get on a rant here. But you know, it was the ultimate sacrifice. That’s what we are as humans, and that’s why I love the military so much. These people are willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of someone else. That’s what makes us a great nation.”
Morgan said his hope is that when fans read his book they “experience something that tells them that we can all be good.”
“Do good for the betterment of not only ourselves but others,” Morgan said. “Sometimes we’re going to experience heartache and hardship and I do believe that sometimes that pain that we experienced in our life, whether it be physical or emotional, spiritual, whatever it is, it might not necessarily always be just for us.”