Posted On Tuesday, March 01, 2011
As Seen in Country Weekly:
The Boot Campaign is getting an extra kick. The program, which encourages Americans to buy combat boots in support of the armed forces, is welcoming a new wave of country stars for their ads and promotional efforts. Most recently, Josh Turner, George Jones, Craig Morgan, Randy Houser, Charlie Daniels, the Oak Ridge Boys, Jack Ingram and many others laced up with the Boot Campaign, joining already-onboard celebs including Joe Nichols, Gretchen Wilson and Heidi Newfield. The stars appear in print advertisements sporting combat boots as a way of showing gratitude to U.S. troops. Artists from other musical fields as well as athletes and Hollywood stars—heck, even the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are also showing their support.
The Boot Campaign began in 2009 as a truly grass-roots movement. It’s the collective brainchild of five Texas women, known as the “Boot Girls,” who teamed up to find a creative way to say thanks to those members of the American military who were returning home from duty. The campaign was inspired by the book by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Red-wing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.
The ladies came up with the idea of wearing combat boots as a symbolic, “walk a mile in my shoes” statement. The campaign’s signature boots are available for purchase through the bootcampaign.com website, and all pro¬ceeds go to organizations such as the USO and the Lone Survivor Founda¬tion, founded by Marcus, which helps wounded warriors and their families. Though the program is less than two years old, it’s gaining momentum with the speed of a fighter plane. “We get letters from the deployed military that have heard about us and they all have great things to say,” says Sherri Reuland, one of the five Boot Girls. “The Boot Campaign is really our call to action. It shows compassion and it is a reminder of what these men and women in the service go through every day.
When you wear the combat boots, the military people know that you are standing beside them in support.” And now, they’re picking up even more support from the country music community. Charlie Daniels was so impressed by the program that he included it in his annual charity event in Nashville this past September. The superpatriot hosted the “Get Your Boots On, Nashville” fundraising event to benefit both the Boot Campaign and Stars for Stripes. He sums up his support for the movement in a statement to Country Weekly, saying, “We’re putting some boots on the ground in this country to support the ones who put their boots on the ground in combat to keep our country free. It’s the least we can do.”
Craig Morgan, who served in the United States Army for more than 10 years, is also a recent “enlistee,” so to speak. “I was approached by the Boot Campaign organization to be a part of this,” says Craig. “I’m sure a lot of that had to do with the fact that I was in the Army for so many years. But anytime we can do something that’s going to improve the lifestyle of our returning soldiers, that is something we should do. For me, it was a no-brainer.”
Craig was familiar with the organization and especially admired the creative concept behind the movement. “It is unique,” he says. “There is a visual appeal to it. I have been working with the military since I left active duty, but we always do some investigating before we get involved with an organization. I like being affiliated with those that look to have some longevity, and the Boot Campaign looks like it will be a long-term thing.”
Randy Houser’s involvement with the Boot Campaign would seem a natural fit, on the heels of his most successful single, the humorous “Boots On” in 2009. He began hearing about the Boot Campaign after performing for a USO tour of the Persian Gulf in January of 2010. That proved a life-changing experience for the rough-hewn singer. “When I went on that USO trip, I saw what those guys do over there, and you realize what you are doing for them,” Randy says. “They have such a sense of team. Some of them almost feel guilty for coming home because they feel like they are leaving their team behind. Hats off to them, man.”
And much like the workings of the military, the Boot Campaign is prov¬ing what can be accomplished when people pitch in as a team. The fact that five everyday-type women, all with jobs and families of their own, can successfully spearhead a move-ment of this proportion suggests a true “American dream” story. That is certainly not lost on Randy or Craig.“I love to see Americans actually doing something,” Randy says with a robust laugh. “It shows that people can make a big difference. I mean, as art¬ists, we can show our support through songs or performing for the military. That’s how we raise awareness. But these five women have hit on somehing that looks like it’s really catching on.” And the campaign ads definitely catch your attention, Randy adds. “You know, you’re looking at a picture of a big star or a celebrity and you scan down and you see that they’re wearing those brown combat boots, and you just want to know why,” he says. “You know immediately that it represents something that’s pretty important.” Craig also makes sure to give the Boot Girls their proper respect. “These ladies have put so much heart and soul into this,” he says earnestly. “They are the ones who should be commended. I mean, all we [artists] have to do is take some pictures. That’s the easy part.”
The Boot Campaign is getting a further boost from Joe Nichols, who has been working with Marcus Lut¬trell as well as the Boot Campaign. Joe dedicated his latest music video, “The Shape I’m In,” to the men and women returning home from military service, and selected Marcus to provide the opening narration. The video was made in partnership with the Lone Survivor Foundation and the Boot Campaign. Joe says in a release, “We came up with the idea to connect the song’s lyrics with what Marcus and company have been doing already which is, helping soldiers get back into a normal life after returning home.” And fans can help by literally “getting your boots on.” While you’re at it, bring the family, urges Randy Houser. “I think every family portrait should have somebody, or even everybody, in combat boots,” he says, with a slight hint of facetiousness in his voice. “Heck, why not? It’s one way we can give back.” CW
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY THE BOOT CAMPAIGN/WEBSTER PR