A love of country music

Written by Angela Hirsch.

The Coast Guard is filled with dedicated, patriotic men and women. But who knew so many of them could belt out a country tune? A request from the Academy of Country Music for military men and women to perform with some of the genre’s biggest stars was met with tremendous enthusiasm from more than 80 talented singers and musicians across the service. Two Coast Guard members were selected for the ACM’s All-Star Salute to the Troops, which airs May 20 on CBS in celebration of Armed Forces Week.

Hunter Hayes and Lt. j.g. Katie Spira perform onstage during ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute To The Troops at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Academy of Country Music photo by Ethan Miller.

Hunter Hayes and Lt. j.g. Katie Spira perform onstage during ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute To The Troops at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Academy of Country Music photo by Ethan Miller.

Lt. j.g. Katie Spira was serving as the executive officer of Coast Guard Cutter Adak, assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, when she saw the message announcing the opportunity. Each member’s application required a brief performance video, so Spira asked a shipmate to record a few seconds of her singing on the deck of the cutter.

“Within a week, I found out I was a finalist. I was in total and complete shock,” said Spira.

A few weeks later, she was in Las Vegas, performing onstage with Hunter Hayes. Spira says she was struck by the sincerity and respect Hayes showed for servicemembers and the military.

“Hunter was so genuinely thankful to be a part of this whole experience… even with dozens of tours and concerts and thousands of fans he thought this concert was incredibly important. It was pretty awe-inspiring to see someone so moved by those who serve.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Noah Reinhart, a security specialist at Base Alameda, sang the national anthem to open the show, along with servicemembers from the Navy and Air Force. He also joined Toby Keith onstage for the show’s finale. For Reinhart, the highlight of the experience was the fellowship with servicemembers from each of the fived armed forces.

“Everyone seemed to really embrace each other regardless of rank or service,” said Reinhart. “We were all there for a common purpose. We were there on behalf of the military with a mutual love of country music.”

Spira was proud to represent the Coast Guard’s unique mission in Patrol Forces Southwest Asia. “Not a lot of people know that the Coast Guard is deployed overseas in places like Bahrain and Afghanistan. Hopefully, this helped broaden the American public’s views of the Coast Guard, her missions and her capabilities.”

Spira and Rhynhart shared the stage with country music stars including Dierks Bentley, Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Merle Haggard, Hunter Hayes, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Kellie Pickler, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Eli Young Band, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry.

Master Sgt. Harry Bounds, Lt. Chelsea Brunoehler and Petty Officer 1st Class Noah Reinhart perform onstage during ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute To The Troops at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Academy of Country Music photo by Ethan Miller.

Master Sgt. Harry Bounds, Lt. Chelsea Brunoehler and Petty Officer 1st Class Noah Reinhart perform onstage during ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute To The Troops at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Academy of Country Music photo by Ethan Miller.

Neither member was surprised by the outpouring of support for the military from the country music community. “Country music shows a level of patriotism that no other genre shows,” said Reinhart. “[Many of the] stories within the songs either pay homage to or inspire the men and women of the armed forces.”

For Spira, while deployed overseas, country music evoked memories of her home in Texas, like driving her pickup truck, swimming in the creek, and eating barbeque. While her memories are personal, she believes the popularity of the genre is universal. “I think it reminds a lot of us of a simpler time, one not so networked and tweeted and contained within a computer or smart phone.”

Spira and Reinhart will appear on ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops, co-hosted by LL COOL J and Chris O’Donnell, airing Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm on CBS.

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