Rodney Atkins Recalls Life-Changing Moments From Recent Visit to Afghanistan
Rodney Atkins is one of the latest country stars to pack up his bags and head overseas to visit and entertain the U.S. troops, who continue to fight day in and day out to defend our freedom. The singer's trip to Afghanistan came in the midst of other tour stops in Texas, Chicago, Miami and Orlando and was Atkins' first time stepping foot on the soil where the fearless soldiers work hard to keep America safe.
The 10-day experience overseas left the him understandably humbled by his own ups and downs -- as he is currently going through a divorce -- but most importantly gave him different outlook on how to handle future life battles.
"I came out of Afghanistan saying I will never complain again for the rest of my life after seeing what those men and women do," Atkins tells Taste of Country. "You come out of there changed. It’s amazing what they do. I really, really keep those folks in my prayers."
During the trip, Atkins spent time at many Forward Operating Base (FOB) locations and saw first hand the daily routine the troops experience. "We would go into these places in the dark in the morning, and we’d have to leave with the lights out," Atkins explains. "I'd see these guys training when it was 25 degrees and it was raining sideways at 3:00 in the morning. I finally asked one of the Marines, 'Why are you doing it now? Are you on the clock right now? Why now?' He said for my kids … for my family. He was carrying these 300lb. sand bags. He would walk about 50 yards and drop it and pick it back up. Then he would walk 50 yards with it again, drop it, and pick it back up. I caught myself standing there going, 'But why are you doing this now?' He said, 'Because I never know when I’m going to have to carry my brother back through the gates of hell.' I just came out of that really saying to myself, I will never complain again. God bless their families."
Atkins didn't just do his job of singing for the soldiers -- he also spent a lot of one-on-one time with them, learning about their families and hearing many moving stories that would make a grown man cry.
"There was a soldier who had a twin brother there who was a bomb tech," says Atkins. "His job was to go out and disarm IEDs … pick it up, and take it out some where and detonate it. It’s the size of a silver dollar. They’re tiny. When you hear an IED go off, you can feel it from miles away shake the ground. He had lost his twin brother. He gave me his brother’s [uniform patches] to take home and give to my little boy."
"They don’t wear a lot of identification," he continues. "They have a pistol and they have patches with their last name and their blood type [on their chest]. These guys would come up and take their patches off and handing them to me, saying ‘Give that to your little boy.’ I wound up with a whole bag full of this stuff."
Atkins has always written and performed songs that mean something to him, but after playing them for the men and women overseas, he says they have all taken on a whole new meaning, including his current single 'He's Mine,' about raising a teenage son.
"That whole trip changed how personal that song was for me. It took it to another place. When you’re standing in Afghanistan singing songs like ‘It’s America’ … it still gets me," Atkins remember, his eyes filling with tears. "And then to sing something like ‘Watching You’? It kills me.
"When we play 'Going Through Hell,' I always say God bless the men and women and this country," Atkins adds. "They’re defending the world. It’s above and beyond. I can’t even describe what they’re going through. I can’t even explain the training and the focus that they have. They’re so young and so focused and they have each other’s back. They’re in my prayers every night."
Now that he's home, Atkins is back on the road hitting many markets on his own. In May, he will head out on the 2012 Country Throwdown Tour. Click here to see a full itinerary of where Atkins will be performing throughout the year.