The following article was written by Aaron Lee of Nashville Noise. Thanks, Aaron, for contributing this article for publication here at Country’s Chatter.
It’s not everyday you see Whitney Duncan wearing blue jeans with a bulletproof vest and army helmet or shooting machine guns in the middle of the desert. But, her presence is one of many things U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait got to experience this March.
From March 18-31, Duncan, a Warner Brother’s recording artist and songwriter joined and impressive list of her musical peers as she headed over to the Middle East on her first USO tour to provide some much needed entertainment for the troops.
“I didn’t even know it was a possibility, Duncan explained, “but my agent called me and asked me if I would be interested and I didn’t even think twice I was just like absolutely… he knew I’d be totally up for stuff like that you know? I mean, I love shooting guns (laughs) and I have so much respect for those guys and girls over there.” Duncan said, in talking about what made her decide to embark on her first USO tour.
In case you don’t know, the USO is a congressionally charted, non-profit organization that seeks to provide morale and recreation-type services to service members and their families. According to its website, www.uso.org, the USO and country music have a long-standing, well-lasted relationship that began over 65 years ago.
Other country acts to headline USO tours include Toby Keith, Mark Wills, Craig Morgan, Lee Ann Womack, Darryl Worley, the Zac Brown Band and many more.
Soldiers were invited to take a break from their work and enjoy a couple hours of fun and music. Spc. Travis J. Carroll from B Co. 2/7th Infantry deeply enjoyed his experience with Whitney Duncan and expressed his gratitude. “It was a great experience!” He said. “She was able to make us smile and laugh and feel like we were back at home, even though we were thousands of miles away. She really boosted our spirits. Especially when she covered a couple of bands from my home state of Indiana! (Laughs).”
“It was a two-week tour of Kuwait and Iraq. We did five shows total. I imagined me sleeping in a tent, things like that, you know? And it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but we actually got to sleep in one of Saddam’s palaces…It was crazy!” Duncan explained, in talking about her experiences in Iraq. “He had a hand in picking all the décor and picking the colors and stuff. I know you don’t really imagine him being like that but he was. Everything looked like Easter! (Laughs) I mean, it was pastel colors everywhere…It literally looked like a room I would have had when I was like six years old (laughs)…the décor was just really, really young! It was interesting, but it was a palace no doubt, you know?”.
While in Iraq, Duncan had a special opportunity to take part in one soldier’s reenlistment. “I would like to thank her for being apart of my reenlistment the day she visited us over here in Iraq, south of Baghdad… It was awesome! She has amazing talent, a beautiful voice and great songs!” Explained Army Spc. James Moses, who is serving on his second tour in Iraq.
The tour wasn’t all work for her though. When Duncan and her crew weren’t playing shows, shooting guns or meeting members of our armed services, they found time to relax by fishing and watching the sunsets. “The palace was on a big lake, he (Saddam Hussein) had built all these man made lakes because water means power (in Iraq) I guess. And so on the back balcony we could fish, we could fish off the back balcony into the lake. We didn’t catch anything, but that doesn’t matter (laughs) just to be able to say we fished in one of Saddam’s lakes, you know…So, when we did have a second to breathe, we went out in the back overlooking the lake and got to relax for a little bit.”.
Many soldiers didn’t know anything about Whitney Duncan until they heard that she was coming over to perform. “It’s really funny, you know, a lot of them came to see me after my shows and told me ‘I didn’t know who you were before, but when I found out you were coming, I looked up your music’ and people in the crowd were singing along to ‘Skinny Dippin”. How funny is that?”.
Duncan admitted that the concerts she performed over there were a little bit different than her shows over here in the states, in more than one way. “In some of those I actually had Iraqis so, those I definitely don’t see at my shows over here! (Laughs) but, they were very welcoming and respectful. They (the troops) were really excited for me to be over there playing. I mean, I definitely know that they don’t get that much entertainment over there so, you could definitely feel the excitement, so that was very nice.”.
Duncan’s new album, “Right Road Now” will be released on April 20, so she will be working hard in the following months to promote her new music, but according to her, don’t count her out on going back to the Middle East again. “I would do it in a heartbeat! All I got to do is have my agent throw it my way. I even told him that… I don’t even care if it’s in Afghanistan, which, you know, isn’t exactly the safest place to be. I would love to go back over there!” Although it seems very dangerous, Duncan said she felt extremely safe the whole time. “There was never a moment when I didn’t feel safe….we went to downtown Baghdad and we had to wear bulletproof vests, helmet’s and we were in a SUV motorcade. I felt like the President!”.
Thanks again to Aaron, of Nashville Noise, for sending this article to us.
Talk to you guys in the morning. Have a great rest of your Wednesday!