Saturday, September 18, 2010

Craig Morgan shares bond with audience at Pope AFB

Flanked by a pair of aircraft - a C-17 Globemaster and a C-130 Hercules - and with hangers No. 4 and 5 in the background, country music star Craig Morgan performed a free concert Friday night on the flight line of Silver Ramp at Pope Air Force Base.

It was a familiar - and welcoming - sight for Morgan, a former soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division.

"Thank you; it's so good to be back in this part of the world," Morgan said to the cheering crowd, which military officials estimated at 15,000. "It always feels like home."

That sentiment hit home with Staff Sgt. Chris Connell, a soldier in the 82nd who attended the concert with his wife, Morgan, and daughter, 5-year-old Arianna.

"It's good to have something like this for families to do on a Friday night," said Connell, who danced with his daughter in the waning orange sunlight during a performance by opening act Perry Howell & the Barn Burners.

"It's really good to see him (Morgan) give back to soldiers - to take care of his brothers," Connell said.

Pfc. Jason Jimeson and his wife, Andrea, thought the free concert was a nice diversion for a Friday night.

"It's cool; it's a free concert!" said Jimeson, a solider at Fort Bragg. "But it's also really cool he's giving back ... and it's a nice going away party for Pope."

Jimeson was referring to how Pope Air Force Base will become part of Fort Bragg when the planned Base Closure and Realignment is complete.

The only thing realigning itself Friday night was the crowd, which surged to the front of the stage and stood throughout Morgan's entire set.

Morgan often thanked those assembled, consisting mostly of soldiers and their families.

Accompanied by his five-piece band, Morgan also made the crowd happy by playing several of his greatest hits, including "That's What I Love About Sunday," "Bonfire," "Little Bit of Life" and many more.

At one point, during the first chorus of "I Got You," Morgan stopped the song in order to pull an engaged couple up who were to be married the next day on stage. The couple held a sign that caught the singer's attention.

"Ma'am, do you know how hard it is to read and sing at the same time?" Morgan playfully asked the bride-to-be in the front row. "Now, I can do a lot of things at once, but I can't do that."

While Morgan's antics and vocal prowess entertained the masses, it was the singer's down-to-earth attitude that most impressed Sgt. Thomas Anderson, who attended the concert with his wife, Tris.

"I like that he (Morgan) stays true to his roots," said Anderson, a soldier at Fort Bragg. "He knows where he's from, and he knows what Army families go through. He's served here and no matter how famous he's become, his values still come through."

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