Army veteran and country music star Craig Morgan surprised an audience this summer by taking the oath of enlistment during a live show.
Morgan, a staff sergeant, previously served 17 years in the active Army and Army Reserve. The 59 year old became the first person to ever enlist on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, then he performed for a sold-out crowd.
“A lot of people asked me if I bumped my head or something,” he laughed. “It was an opportunity for me to marry my worlds, music and the military have been and always will be a big part of my life.”
The response was mostly positive, but there were some naysayers in the mix.
“There were a few labeling it as a publicity stunt or ‘fake news’ which I thought was funny,” he said. “What many people don’t realize is you can request a waiver for all sorts of things. When I saw the difficulty the Army was having in recruiting and retaining, it was an easy decision for me to make.”
Morgan will be pursuing warrant officer candidate school and has been assigned to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. He previously served with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and deployed to Panama in 1989 for Operation Just Cause.
Though the new role will be different from his previous responsibilities as a soldier he said he’s eager to get started.
“It is a little weird for me since my previous jobs were combat related, but I told them in the event something in the world changes I am still proficient in my original skill set,” he laughed.
Morgan will be working with the Army band while also assisting the Army with recruitment. With numbers at record lows across the board, he’s hoping to inspire new soldiers to serve.
“I think there’s a lot of issues in the country, where there’s a lot of questions about whether or not our government has our best interests at heart at times,” Morgan said. “But what I tell these young people is, although you swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States and obey the orders of the commander in chief and those leaders that are appointed before you, when joining the military, it’s so much more than that.”
He adds that military service offers benefits unseen in other career fields.
“Personally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the opportunities to go to other places in the world and experience those other cultures, I think far surpassed the negative that you may have been thinking about what’s going on in the world,” he said. “I have found that military service absolutely changes people’s lives. There’ll never be an occupation where you will establish relationships like you do in the military. I’ve got guys that I served with 30 years ago and we’re still buddies. I’m just trying to encourage the new generation coming up to do this for themselves, for friends, for family and for their country.”
Balancing his responsibilities to the Army with his career in country music will be a challenge but it’s one Morgan relishes, he admitted. And his wife, Karen, is thrilled to once again be a military spouse, he says.
“When I decided to get out knowing that I had 10-and-a-half years of active duty and I transitioned in the reserve to pursue music, I think my wife cried for two days. We just absolutely loved our military life and our Army family,” he said. “It was a difficult process for us. So going back into it she’s excited for me, for us and for the opportunity for not only myself but for her to serve and be there for the spouses.”
Despite the busy life he’ll be leading, there’s new music on the horizon for the country music hit maker, too.
“I’m more excited about this new music than I think I’ve ever been because I’ve never done an album of duets,” Morgan said.
Morgan has long said that although he wouldn’t trade his music career and is grateful for everything he’s been able to achieve, nothing compares to being a soldier. Stepping into uniform one more time while being able to continue his love of music is everything he could have dreamed for, he said.
“I’m just so humbled to be a part of what I believe is the greatest people in our country. The military is filled with the greatest caliber of people I’ve ever encountered, and I’m humbled to be a part of it again,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to proving my worth and setting high standards and leading by example, and hopefully, encouraging more Americans to be part of our commitment to serve this nation.”