Patriotism alive and well at Country Jam

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Every year for four days in late June I surround myself with 30,000 to 40,000 of my closest redneck country music loving friends nightly in the little-known town of Mack, Colo . Most think of it as a Grand Junction event, but hard-core country fans know the real deal. It's a big field barely a dozen miles from the Utah border that comes to life in a big way when the sun goes down. 

As the official event photographer, I get to see everything from the "general admission" perspective to the "VIP" treatment featuring choice seating and gourmet meals, to the back-stage area where you never know who you'll see and get to visit with ... what an honor. It's an honor that is if you like American patriots like Big and Rich, Eddie and Troy a.k.a. Montgomery Gentry, Randy Owen (former lead singer for Alabama), Neil McCoy, Sawyer Brown, and a host of other nationally known country acts. Then there's the staff. Security, production, local crews, etc., all the finest in the business and many of whom I'm blessed to call friends. 

The task of documenting this live music extravaganza through photography has been a personal high for me now for more than five years. But this year was even more special.
Sunday, the final of the four days, was dedicated to the U.S. Armed Forces in honor of service members for what they are doing around the globe to keep Old Glory waving freely. Virtually every performing artist all weekend offered his or her heart-felt appreciation for the sacrifices of military members (and their families) for keeping America free. 

It was more than flag waving and red, white and blue confetti blasts that made this year special to me, however. 

Following the meet and greet with Big and Rich back stage and before their show, John Rich was given a medal. It wasn't for anything he'd done mind you ... but rather offered to Mr. Rich ultimately from a Soldier wounded while serving overseas who asked a third party to present it on his behalf. It was the wounded soldier's way of thanking Big and Rich for their service to those who serve. Among those attending the informal but power-packed presentation there wasn't a dry eye in the place. 

It just doesn't matter which side of the political fence one is on -- or one's personal feelings about the fact that we are engaged in two wars simultaneously in Iraq and Afghanistan ... the verdict is in. The vast majority of those rednecks enduring the dessert heat for 96 hours in Mack to listen to live music were found guilty of being overwhelmingly patriotic and supportive of the U.S. Armed Forces. Having the U.S. Navy's Leap Frogs jump in Sunday was an added bonus that all will remember ... at least until the big show gets even bigger next year.