This time of year, with Memorial Day and July 4th in recent memory, many people think of our military and wonder what they can do to support the troops, but there's a Tennessee woman who makes our soldiers a priority 365 days a year.
Judy Seale, founder of Stars for Stripes, is always looking for a way to put a smile on the face of soldiers serving our country, and she accomplishes that mission by taking celebrities overseas to entertain troops serving at the most remote bases in the world. To learn more and to donate to this worthy organization, visit http://starsforstripes.com.
President/CEO of JSI Inc., Seale is a Nashville-based booking agent who has been taking country music entertainers overseas for many years. “I started donating my time to take tours to the troops overseas in 1991,” Seale says. “A lot of people assume that I became involved with that aspect of the military because I come from a military family. In fact, I do not have relatives who served in our Armed Forces and think that is probably why I am so passionate about doing something for them.
Charlie Daniels on Stars for Stripes
Music for the Most Remote
“In June 2003, I was with the first group of entertainers to go into Iraq to entertain the troops after the initial invasion,” she continues. “Several things happened on that trip that made me realize I wanted to start my own organization with the primary focus being to make sure entertainment reached the troops in the little ‘fobs’ [forward operating bases] that rarely receive celebrity visits. The focus by other organizations seemed to be to have the celebrity perform at the largest camp in front of the biggest audience possible to maximize his or her time in the area, which made very good business sense.”
However, Seale had a heart for reaching those at the most remote bases that rarely got visitors, so she decided to remedy the problem, launching Stars for Stripes in 2003. “My first official ‘Stars for Stripes’ tour took place over Christmas and New Year's 2003 with celebrities Craig Morgan and Jolie Edwards,” says Seale. “They performed acoustically at three or four small sites a day and made a huge difference in the lives of those troops having to serve in a war zone over the holidays.”
Since then, Stars for Stripes has sent more than 50 celebrity entertainment tours overseas. Performers and Stars for Stripes staffers all donate their time, so every dollar goes directly to fund sending entertainment to the troops.
“I’ve never seen anybody who is more dedicated to the military than she is,” says country legend Charlie Daniels. “I have been all over the world with Judy and she is so good about getting entertainment to the troops in some pretty doggone desolate places. She doesn’t go to the glamour spots, and she does it 'cause she loves it.”
Charlie is a regular supporter of Stars for Stripes. Aaron Tippin, Daryl Worley, Chris Young, Diamond Rio, Chely Wright, the Bellamy Brothers, and actor Gary Sinise are among those who have traveled with Seale for Stars for Stripes. “We can never say enough great things about Judy. She has been one of our closest friends and business associates for years and her commitment to Stars for Stripes is way beyond the call of duty,” says David Bellamy of the Bellamy Brothers. “Judy’s main interest has always been the soldiers and her dedication to bringing entertainment and a break from the rigors of duty to the men and women who serve is unparalleled.”
The Bellamys have traveled with Seale to perform for troops in Korea, Bosnia, Italy, Japan, Germany, Kosovo and Guam. “We spent Christmas in Korea with Judy a few years ago doing shows at seven or eight bases for all the troops that had duty during the holidays,” recalls Bellamy. “It was bitterly cold and everyone was missing home and a little on edge because we were visiting the DMZ and the North Korean soldiers were looking at our cowboy hats in an unfriendly way.
“Judy was completely unfazed by the whole international tension. She organized an impromptu jam session for the soldiers guarding the border between North and South Korea with just an acoustic guitar one of the cooks had on hand in the kitchen and then supplied Christmas gifts for the entire staff she'd brought all the way from Nashville. Judy’s work is very hands on. She never meets a stranger. And she never stops lobbying for the United States soldier.”
The entertainers aren’t the only ones who sing Seale’s praises. The high-ranking military officials she’s worked with have tremendous respect for what she does for the men and women serving at the front. “It was a total pleasure working with the Stars for Stripes program," says U.S. Army Major General Joseph Anderson, who served as the Multinational Corps Iraq Chief of Staff during the surge, and as the Multinational/United States Forces Iraq Chief of Staff during the transition and drawdown period. “All of the entertainers who traveled with Judy Seale were courteous, professional and truly committed to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen and civilians serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. These entertainers spent time just talking to our troops and making sure they knew how much public support they had at home. More importantly, they put smiles on everyone's faces every time they entertained. From music to comedy, this program brought a piece of America to Iraq, which allowed our troopers to escape from the realities of war and enjoy quality performances each and every time.”
The Risks & The Rewards
Visiting war zones is dangerous, and Air Force Major General Steve Sargeant recalls an attack during one especially memorable performance. “Despite the dangers often present, like a nearby rocket attack during the Air Force Birthday performance, Stars for Stripes and their fearless entertainers ensured the shows always went on a planned,” he says.
“The rocket attack he refers to is legendary,” says Seale. “We were the first musical group to perform in what was at that time the ‘Green Zone’ in Baghdad. They built this beautiful outdoor stage for us. Right in the middle of Chely Wright's performance, a mortar zoomed over the stage and landed somewhere on the other side. Fortunately, it was a dud. Steve asked me if the band saw it and my comment was, ‘If they are still on stage, they did not. If they are under the stage, they did.’”
That sense of humor and her tireless energy serve Seale well as she travels the globe, and when she comes home to Nashville to spend time with grandchildren. When asked what keeps her going, she responds, “Knowing that the visits truly make a difference and lasting impact on the men and women in uniform. There are many, many times when I think I just can’t do it anymore due to lack of finances, lack of time and even lack of celebrities willing to participate. Then out of the blue, a random email will come in from someone I met on one of the tours or a family member of a serviceperson thanking me and mentioning something about our visit that changed their life. That’s very strong motivation for me to continue my efforts.
“Another aspect is the people I meet,” she continues. “There are soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors who will always be a part of my life, and the celebrities that I take on the tours become lifelong friends. ...God gave me a unique ability to solicit celebrities for the tours and coordinate the aspects of the tour, so that not only do the celebrities have a lifetime of memories, but they share with other celebrities and encourage them to tour as well. I think we have to take advantage of the talents God gives us and when we do, our rewards far exceed our sacrifices.”
Copyright 2012, watchgmctv.com. For permission to repost or reprint, click here.
About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications. A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.
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