Trace Adkins—He’s Got Your Back

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By Kat Castagnoli

For more than two decades, country music icon Trace Adkins has sold 11 million albums –all but one has gone Gold or Platinum — won numerous Country Music Television (CMT) and Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards and has nearly 200 million plays on YouTube.

But if you ask Trace Adkins what he’s proudest of, it has little to do with any of the above.

It’s the invaluable, long-lasting connections he’s made with U.S. veterans through his work with the USO, and especially with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).

“I’m a better man for having associated with these men and women. I always say that if you have the opportunity to be in the presence of heroes, take it. You’ll be better for it,” said Adkins, who’s been WWP’s spokesperson since 2010.

“It’s always been a privilege to work with veteran organizations and it’s really been the most meaningful thing that I’ve done in my career.”

Steve Nardizzi, chief executive officer for WWP, says Adkins’ unwavering and passionate support for their cause has given a voice to their mission and the needs of the nation’s wounded veterans. “Time and time again, Trace has gone out of his way to highlight WWP and help us ensure this generation of injured veterans is the most successful and well-adjusted in our nation’s history,” said Nardizzi.

The country music singer’s support for the military began when he went on his first USO tour in 2002 to Bahrain, according to an Iamthevoluntourist.com interview.

“After that first trip, I was hooked,” Adkins said. “They were some of the most appreciative audiences you’ll ever play for.”

Since then, he’s been on a total of 12 USO tours, visiting over 65,000 service members across the globe, including performances at military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Respect for the armed forces is a common theme in the singer’s music. “The last few albums we’ve always tried to include a song that pays tribute to the men and women that serve,” he says. “I appreciate them. They’ve got my back and I want to let them know, I’ve got theirs, too.”

A Deep Connection

Widely known for his distinctive, bass-baritone voice, Adkins first emerged onto the country music scene in 1996 with his debut album, “Dreamin Out Loud,” released on Capitol Records Nashville. Since then, he’s released ten more studio albums and two greatest hits compilations. In addition, he’s charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard country music charts, including number one hits, “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” and “You’re Gonna Miss This,” which peaked in 1997, 2007 and 2008, respectively.

All but one of his studio albums went Gold or Platinum in the U.S. – his highest-selling to date is the 2005 album, “Songs About Me,” which went multi-Platinum, selling over two million copies.

On his 2017 album, “Something’s Going On,” Adkins dedicated the song, “Still a Soldier,” to our nation’s veterans as a way to show his support and respect for all that they have done.

The song talks about the life of an American veteran and his deep-seated connection to life as a solider, even though he’s currently living a civilian life:

“Comes home at night to a pretty wife

With a baby due

He’ll sleep in on Saturday

Cut the grass if it don’t rain

After church he’ll watch the game

And have a beer or two”

“He’s still a soldier

His blood runs red, white and blue

He put away his gun and boots

But he still believes

The American Dream

‘Til his last breath he’ll always be

A soldier”

Adkins’ songs are just one of the many ways he advocates and supports veterans. The singer has been involved with the Wounded Warrior Project since its

Trace Adkins on stagein a suit and holding his cowboy hat singing with US flag in background
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 31: Trace Adkins performs onstage during the Wounded Warrior Project Courage Awards & Benefit Dinner at Gotham Hall in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Wounded Warrior Project)

inception and is passionate about its mission. “In my career, I just can’t think of any other organization that I’ve been involved with that just moved me the way my work with Wounded Warrior Project has,” he told Rolling Stone.

In his experience with wounded veterans, Adkins said he’s been struck by how many share the same goal: to rejoin their colleagues in active duty. “That’s all they want to do is go back, because they couldn’t find solace or comfort here. They just want to go back,” he says. “It’s sad to see those folks and visit with them. You can hear that pain. I’ve been around a lot of them and talked to a lot of them and it leaves you feeling helpless.”

Still, the singer, who released the EP “Ain’t That Kind of Cowboy” in October, is bolstered by the progress he’s witnessed. “There have been so many success stories,” Adkins says. “They come back and they get the help they need and it’s a wonderful thing to see when that does happen.”

In 2016, Adkins received the National Defense Industrial Association’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for his exceptional leadership and advocacy for service members. But, “I’m not going to pat myself on the back too hard,” Adkins says. “I just do what I can and hopefully it’ll help.”

Living Country

Just hearing some of the things Adkins has lived through, you might say he doesn’t just sing country songs – he’s lived them. Born in the small Louisiana town of Sarepta in 1962, Adkins, at the age of 17, hit a school bus while driving to school one morning, puncturing both lungs, breaking several ribs and severing his nose – which, thankfully, they were able to sew back on, according to Wide Open Country. He went on to garner a football scholarship to Louisiana Tech University, but sadly, knee injuries ended any chance of an athletic career.

After college, Adkins worked several manual odd jobs before figuring out that Nashville was the place to be. He took up the guitar early in life but at the time, he was known more for his accident-prone ways than his singing.

Trace Adkins performs in on stage with his guitar in blue jeans, cowboy style shirt and cowboy hat
CEDAR PARK, TEXAS – AUGUST 09: Trace Adkins performs in concert at HEB Center on August 9, 2019 in Cedar Park, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

In 1982, Adkins’ tangle with a bulldozer caused such deep cuts that, “I thought I was fixin’ to lose both my legs,” he told Wide Open Country. Less than a year later, a tank containing 400 barrels of oil exploded while he was trying to repair a leak, crushing his left leg. And in 1988, Adkins flipped his truck on an icy overpass in Texas, putting him in a neck brace. Another accident a year later left him with one of his fingers cut off.

But the decade’s cherry on top was Adkins being stranded with nine other coworkers on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Chantal in 1989. To survive, “I got to the highest part of the living quarters on the rig, so if it turned over, I was pretty well centered and could go in either direction,” he told Wide Open Country.

Adkins survived, and went on to have two daughters, Tarah and Sarah, with his first wife and high school sweetheart, Barbara Lewis, and three daughters, Mackenzie, Brianna and Trinity, with his third wife, Rhonda Forlaw, a former publicity manager for Arista Records who actually helped Adkins jumpstart his career.

However, in 1994, his second wife, Julie Curtis, got a little too fed up with his drinking, picked up the family shotgun and shot Adkins. Bullets went through his heart and both lungs.

“The doctors held little hope that I would survive and told my family and friends to go in and say goodbye,” he wrote in his autobiography, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck.

But if you know anything about Adkins, it’s that the country star has nothing if not nine lives, and continues to live life on his terms.

Generations of Sacrifice

With all Adkins has been through, he wasn’t going to let a pandemic

Country music star Trace Adkins, with his daughters Brianna and Trinity, and his dogs Bella and Daisy sitting on a couch
JUNE 11: Country music star Trace Adkins, with his daughters Brianna and Trinity, and his dogs Bella and Daisy, invites dog owners to enter the Waggin’ Train Tail Waggin’ Jingle Contest by writing a song about the fun they have with their four-legged friends. The Grand Prize winner gets to sing his or her jingle in a recording session produced by Adkins. For complete contest rules, visit www.WagginTrainBrand.com. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images for Purina)

prevent him from performing at the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS for his fifth time. The concert is traditionally one of PBS’ highest rated shows and went on as scheduled, but with a few noticeable changes. The event usually draws hundreds of thousands of people to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, but in 2020, the tributes and performances were filmed separately in accordance with social distancing guidelines–something Adkins didn’t mind.

“For me, it was less of a challenge than it has been in the past because there was no live audience and if I screwed up, I got to do it over again. In the past I walked out on stage to 200,000 people, so it’s like being in a pressure cooker. This time it was way easier,” he laughingly told Iamthevoluntourist.com.

Adkins says he was thrilled to be part of the show and is happy to celebrate veterans every chance he gets. “It’s always a privilege and the highlight of my year to be part of this show. This year, I think especially. It provides some perspective.

“We’re going through a strange time but there have been generations before us who have been asked to sacrifice way more than we’re being asked to sacrifice. The times have been tougher on a much bigger scale and I think we need to be reminded of that. This too shall pass.”

Discovery Channel’s special “Gold Rush” Featuring military vets airs Friday Night- Sneak Peek Clip!

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promo poster of Gold Rush series on Discovery Channel

“Gold Rush” is Discovery’s #1 show, and Friday night’s episode will focus on the all-military veteran team led by military veteran turned mine boss Fred Lewis.

During the show, fans will learn about their war injuries, paths to recovery and how his all-veteran team got into gold mining. It also reveals that crewmember Kyle Pletzke is one of the nation’s many homeless veterans.

Fred’s rookie team has faced a lot of setback this year from spotty ground to aging equipment… resulting in a low gold total so far.

But, the silver lining is that his special forces team has gelled together and is working well now as a crew.

They’re working through the night when needed, all with the goal of banking more gold.

VIEW THE TRAILER!

On Friday’s episode of “Gold Rush”, airing at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, mechanic Mitch Blatshke from Parker’s crew stops by to help fix up the operation to get them to finish line. Now, they have to hope the gear will hold and that there’s gold in the ground to have any chance of bringing home gold this year.

Gold Rush” airs this Friday at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, followed by the military Gold Rush special at 10 PM ET/PT on Discovery. Fans can also binge all previous seasons of Gold Rush on discovery+

Kellie Pickler, Wilmer Valderrama Named USO Global Ambassadors

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In honor of its 80th anniversary, the United Service Organizations (USO) has named country singer and actress Kellie Pickler, and producer, actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama as USO Global Ambassadors.

USO tour veterans Pickler and Valderrama will help lead the effort for Americans, united in spirit and action, to give more than thanks to the military community.

“We are honored to have these two longtime advocates come on board as USO Global Ambassadors,” said J.D. Crouch II, USO CEO and president. “Kellie and Wilmer have seen firsthand the importance of the USO mission and the impact it can have when we express the nation’s gratitude to our Armed Forces. We hope their continued support will invite more Americans to join them in honoring service members and their families.”

As USO Global Ambassadors, Pickler and Valderrama will support the organization’s Give More Than Thanks initiative, a campaign encouraging all Americans to find actionable ways to express their gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our troops and their families. Throughout the year, Pickler and Valderrama will participate in events and entertainment engagements for service members, raise awareness of our military’s needs and share ways Americans can help the USO give more than thanks.

Pickler and Valderrama have dedicated their time and talents to give back to service members and their families throughout their careers, including touring together in 2018 for the annual USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ways Pickler and Valderrama have served with the USO include:

Kellie Pickler

  • First tour in 2007 to Iraq
  • 12 USO tours visiting 13 international locations (Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq, Kosovo, United Kingdom, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Norway) and a ship at sea; and three domestic locations
  • Five USO Holiday Tours with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018)
  • USO Military Virtual Programming (MVP) session with husband, Kyle Jacobs, broadcast worldwide to 34 locations in the U.S., Qatar, Guam and Japan
  • Recipient of Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award, Operation Troop Aid Chris Kyle Patriot Award and USO of North Carolina Heart for the Warrior Award

“I am honored to join the USO as a Global Ambassador for their 80th anniversary of supporting America’s military, especially in support of this campaign encouraging all Americans to give more than thanks,” shares Pickler. “The USO has allowed me so many opportunities to serve those who serve us, and this is another way I can help shine a light on something that matters … supporting our servicemen, servicewomen, their families, and letting them know we don’t take what they do for granted.”

Wilmer Valderrama

  • First tour in 2007 to Germany
  • Eight USO tours visiting nine international locations (Germany, Poland, South Korea, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Greenland, Norway, Bahrain, Iraq) and a ship at sea; and three domestic locations
  • One USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018
  • More than 40 USO performances
  • USO MVP session broadcast worldwide to 13 installations in the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan, Italy and Iraq

“Touring with the USO has been one of the proudest moments of my career because it has given me the chance to pay my respect and personally express my gratitude to our servicemen and women,” Valderrama said. “I feel honored to now serve as a USO Global Ambassador, to help others understand how important it is to support the military and encourage Americans to follow our heroes example in becoming a more united community in a more united nation.”

Generations of Americans have answered the call to step up, serve and sacrifice. Wherever they are deployed or stationed—on the front lines overseas or the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response at home—the USO stands by our heroes in uniform. Since 1941, the USO has been a resource for more than 40 million individuals, from providing morale-boosting entertainment to delivering millions of care packages.

To learn more about ways to give more than thanks, visit USO.org/morethanthanks. Follow the USO’s Give More Than Thanks campaign and join the conversation using the hashtag #MoreThanThanks on social media.

About the USO:

The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs, services and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission and learn more about the USO, please visit USO.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

This Taylor Swift ‘Red’ Hit Is Now a Sea Shanty, Thanks to U.S. Navy Band

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Taylor Swift closeup with her smiling wearing red lipstick

Sea shanties may be trending on TikTok, but the U.S. Navy wants you to know that they were into the genre first — so much so, that the U.S. Navy Band took to Twitter to share its sea-shanty rendition of Taylor Swift’s Red single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Featuring a thumping, shanty-esque beat, violins and a five-part vocal harmony, members of the Navy Band chant the lyrics, even putting their own spin on the second verse’s “indie record” line: “And you would hide away and find your peace of mind/ With some TikTok video that’s much cooler than mine,” the female vocalist sings, nodding to the growing sea-shanty trend on the popular video sharing platform.  (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

To really let followers know that sea shanties are deeply embedded in U.S. Navy history and culture, the band playfully quoted the Navy Chief of Information in the caption: “To quote @CHINFO, ‘We were very much into this music before it was cool.’”

Watch the U.S. Navy Band’s sea-shanty version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” below.

Read the complete article on Billboard.

Joe Walsh Presents Lineup And Details For This Saturday’s VetsAid Festival 2020 – Home For The Holidays

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VetsAid promo poster featuring many musical artists

Joe Walsh reveals the final artist lineup and details for this Saturday’s VetsAid 2020: Home for the Holidays today, boasting nearly 50 performances and appearances, the multi-hour music festival will raise sorely needed funds to veterans services groups across the country. Join Joe and his friends December 12 for a worldwide broadcast of unique performances, never-before-seen VetsAid footage from years past and great stories from some of the greatest musicians in the world. VetsAid is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and multi-GRAMMY Award winning musician’s national 501(c)3 non-profit veterans organization.

“Wow – what a show we have this year! Such a diverse and wonderful line up!” Walsh explains, “When you have something like this you humbly ask your friends and colleagues and hope a couple will sign on – kind of like going fishing – but this year everyone I asked said yes! And now it’s turned into a virtual music festival like no other. We know the plight of our vets is hard enough in the best of times, and they are especially vulnerable during this pandemic.

Nearly 50 performances and appearances from artists across the USA, including never before broadcast from The Vetsaid Archives; Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Haim, Don Henley, Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Brad Paisley, Ringo Starr, James Taylor, Keith Urban, Joe Walsh And Zz Top.

And new performances and/or appearances from; Drew Carey, Kenny Chesney, Alice Cooper, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Melissa Etheridge, Brandon Flowers, Mary Gauthier, Vince Gill, Patty Griffin, Daryl Hall, Ben Harper, James Hetfield, Jewel, Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan And Ayaan, The Lumineers, Richard Marx, Tim Mcgraw, Willie Nelson and The Boys, Phillip Phillips, Nathaniel Rateliff, Josh Ritter, Blake Shelton, Jake Shimabukuro, Amanda Shires, Gwen Stefani, Billy Bob Thornton/The Boxmasters, Steven Van Zandt, Eddie Vedder, Rufus Wainwright, Joe Walsh and Verdine White.

VETSAID 2020: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

TO BE STREAMED ONLINE DECEMBER 12, 2020

AND AVAILABLE FOR RESTREAM THROUGH DECEMBER 14, 2020

Tickets on-sale now at vetsaid.veeps.com

“I am proud of this nationwide tradition we’ve created and I’m so glad we can have this show during the holidays featuring all these artists that I love. I’ve got a great feeling about it and know fans will too. I hope it shows the Vets how many people care and want to help – I can’t think of a better way to remember and honor the men and women who have served our country this holiday season than by helping us raise funds to support their essential and basic needs.”

This ticketed event will be streamed on December 12 starting at 6pm ET via vetsaid.veeps.com and will also be available for restream through December 14.

Tickets and merch bundles are available now at vetsaid.veeps.com and will be priced from $20 with discounts available for active duty military and veterans using the promo code VALOR.

Joe Walsh launched VetsAid on September 20, 2017 with an inaugural concert at the EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, VA. The second festival event was in Tacoma, WA and the third in Houston, TX.  VetsAid typically seeks to host the events in cities across the country with large veteran populations. The shows have included performances by musicians including James Taylor, Chris Stapleton, Don Henley, ZZ Top, Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Zac Brown Band, Jason Isbell, Keith Urban, Haim, Gary Clark Jr. and Joe’s brother-in-law Ringo.

VetsAid has raised nearly 1.5 million dollars and supports veterans and their families.

All net proceeds from the 2020 festival will go directly to the veterans’ services charities selected through a vetting process coordinated in tandem with the Combined Arms Institute.

For more information, please visit www.vetsaid.org.

Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME) Joins Forces With AT&T for Veterans Media Fellowship

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diverse group of veterans standing together with a VME sign in the background

Attention U.S. Military & Veterans: Interested in a Media or Entertainment Career?

For the second year in a row, AT&T, parent company of WarnerMedia, Warner Bros, HBO, CNN, and DC, among othersis sponsoring a Veterans in Media Fellowship in collaboration with Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME).

“The fellowship highlights AT&T’s continuing commitment and track record of supporting U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families,” said Roman A. Smith, AT&T’s Director of Community Investment.

“The select group of 40 veterans will meet virtually for 13 Saturdays starting in early 2021, with online seminars from fellow veterans already working in the industry as well as entertainment and media leaders,” said Karen Kraft, producer and VME Chair.

“The goal is to introduce veterans to the industry and provide an opportunity to work with professionals through a series of individual and small group projects,” added Tom McCafferty, actor and VME Vice-Chair.

Tom DeSanto, producer of “X-Men” and “Transformers,” was one of the first guest speakers. “It’s an honor to support our next generation of filmmakers through this AT&T program with VME. Having hired veterans before, their work ethic, ability to problem solve, and commitment to the team always amazes me. Our veterans have always been there for us and it is time for us to be there for them.”

“I was so impressed with the creativity and dedication of the Veteran Fellows I met last year,” said guest speaker Dara Weintraub, co-producer of “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.” “It’s inspiring to see AT&T leading this initiative to enable veterans to gain a better footing in the industry.”

Weintraub added, “Many producers are simply not aware of how diverse the veteran population is and how their talents and life experiences enrich any office or set.”

Other guest speakers included Jim Arnoff, career coach and television packaging agent; Ann Epstein, Head of Studio at Troika Media Group; James Fino, executive producer of “Rick and Morty”; and accomplished television directors Matt Knife and Jonathan X.

Several past fellows were recently engaged as segment producers for the Veterans in Entertainment Virtual Summit, sponsored by a coalition of Hollywood studios. Others have moved into production jobs or internships or entered media-related college tracks.

Emerging filmmaker Terry Rivera, a past AT&T Media Fellow and Navy vet who also served in the NYFD on 9/11, who is now developing a documentary about fellow Latino firefighters said, “The program helped me hone my career goals and the connections I made helped open doors to get my project off the ground.”

“While last year’s Fellowship was held in-person in Los Angeles, for 2021, we’ll be completely virtual. That means, this year, we can open up applications to veterans and the military all over the U.S., as well as those who are still serving overseas,” said Program Manager Brian Wright of Max Edwards Company, who also serves as a VME Advisory Board member.

Applications for the 2021 class are open online now at www.VMEconnect.org through Dec. 11, 2020, with the selected fellows notified by Dec. 18, 2020.

Veterans in Media & Entertainment is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to connect U.S. military veterans working or aspiring to work in the entertainment industry to jobs, internships and educational opportunities. More info about VME at www.VMEconnect.org.

Redemption Day – Watch the Trailer!

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Redemption Day Promo Posted for Marine who rejoins to save wife who was kidnapped

Having just returned home, decorated U.S. Marine Captain Brad Paxton’s (Gary Dourdan) wife, Kate, is kidnapped by a terrorist group while working in Morocco.

He is forced back into action for a daring and deadly operation to save the woman he loves.

Starring:
Gary Dourdan, Serinda Swan, Martin Donovan, Ernie Hudson, Samy Naceri, Andy Garcia

In Theaters – January 8, 2021
On Demand and Digital – January 12, 2021

Click here to watch the trailer!

Military Makeover with Montel Launches on FREE Streaming TV Service, STIRR, on Sunday

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Montel Williams with cast of Military Makeover

In addition to its longstanding home on Lifetime and The American Forces Network (AFN), Military Makeover with Montel, a BrandStar Original, is expanding its viewership through a new partnership with STIRR, a free, ad-supported streaming TV service owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. With over 6 million downloads, STIRR offers local TV viewers across the country more than 130 free TV channels and over 8,000 hours of free video-on-demand (VOD) movies and TV series. The addition of the award-winning show, Military Makeover, expands STIRRs original, veteran-focused, content to audiences across the country.

Military Makeover offers hope and a helping hand on the home front to members of our military and their loved ones. Talk show legend and military advocate Montel Williams, a veteran of the Marine Corps and the Navy, is both host and co-executive producer of Military Makeover. Montel along with the cast and crew, special guest veteran WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, non-profits and likeminded companies with a similar mission to help veterans, come together to transform the homes and lives of military families across the country.

“Military Makeover has already proven to be a huge hit with audiences, and we’re excited to welcome BrandStar content to our platform,” said Ben Lister, Director of Content Acquisition and Business Development for STIRR. “Thanks to the incredible success of the STIRR City Channel, we anticipate that this program will become a major attraction for STIRR users when it premieres.”

Military Makeover kicks off with a marathon airing on STIRR City (Channel 1) on November 8 from 10am – 6pm. Thereafter, it will run weekdays 1-2pm and available anytime, on-demand through STIRRs robust VOD library. STIRR can be accessed online (http://www.STIRR.com) or via app which is available on Roku TV, Fire TV, Apple TV as well as iOS and Android devices.

“BrandStar is thrilled to embrace STIRRs new OTT streaming platform, bringing our award-winning, original content to a broader demographic, says Mark Alfieri, CEO BrandStar. Being a free platform, our life-changing, veteran stories will now be available for all to see.”

Military Makeover with Montel®, a BrandStar Original, is America’s Leading Branded Reality TV Show that offers hope and a helping hand here on the home front to members of our military and their loved ones. A veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Navy, talk show legend and military advocate Montel Williams, who creatively co-produces the show along with a colorful cast that seeks to transform the homes and lives of military families across the country. The cast includes co-host Art Edmonds, designer Jennifer Bertrand and contractor Ryan Stanley. This special series enlists caring companies of all sizes as well as non-profits and the local community. Military Makeover airs on Lifetime® , STIRR and on the American Forces Network which serves American servicemen and women, Department of Defense and other U.S. government civilians and their families stationed at bases overseas, as well as U.S. Navy ships at sea. Help starts at home for veterans on Military Makeover. Join us as our makeover team engages to change the living situation – and the lives – of these deserving families.

About STIRR: STIRR is a free ad-supported streaming service featuring a mix of live local news, TV shows, movies, sports and lifestyle programming. STIRR delivers over 100,000 hours of live local news a year, over 130 linear channels and over 8,000 hours of video on demand movies and TV shows. The STIRR app is available on Roku TV, Fire TV, Apple TV as well as iOS and Android devices or at http://www.STIRR.com. Based in Santa Monica, CA, STIRR is a first of its kind OTT service created, owned and operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

A Lifetime of Service

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Montel Williams with cast of Military Makeover

By Brady Rhoades

Montel Williams served his country for 22 years, and ever since, he’s been serving those who serve in the Armed Forces. 

Through Military Makeover, which he produces and hosts, the Emmy-award winning TV icon has transformed the homes and lives of hundreds of veterans and their families. The show, which airs on Lifetime TV and AFN, has produced some of the most memorable moments in TV history.

In a February, 2020 episode, Montel and the Military Makeover crew helped Debbi, the Gold Star widow of Operation Desert Storm veteran Chris Hixon, who was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman  Douglas High School in Florida while rushing in and trying to disarm the killer.

They stepped in two years after the school shooting that killed Chris and 16 others and made Debbi and her two children’s lives a little brighter by, among other things, renovating her kitchen and installing long, floating shelves in several rooms. Debbi placed photographs of Chris on those shelves.

Montel — no last name necessary for most people — lives by a simple creed that he learned in boot camp: “We leave no Marine behind,” he says. “I bought into the fact that once a Marine, always a Marine.”

TV personalities Rachael Ray and Montel Williams (C) pose with the 1st Marine Corps District at the 2nd Annual Variety Salute to Service in New York City.
TV personalities Rachael Ray and Montel Williams (C) pose with the 1st Marine Corps District at the 2nd Annual Variety Salute to Service in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

Montel was the first Black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy.

“In the nearly three decades since I retired from the Navy, I’ve never really taken the uniform off because standing up for those who are serving now—and those who have served—has been the greatest honor of my professional career,” he says,

Most recently, the husband and father of four joined The Balancing Act, also on Lifetime TV, as a co-host. Before that, he shot to stardom on The Montel Williams Show from 1991 to 2008, for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host.

Military Roots
There’s a lot of tinsel that goes with Hollywood fame, but beneath it are roots, and Montel’s are deep and resilient. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1974. He then graduated from the Naval Academy in 1980 with a degree in engineering and a minor in international security affairs.

Montel Williams (R) and wife Tara Williams.
Montel Williams (R) and wife Tara Williams.
(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)

He completed Naval Cryptologic Officer training, and spent 18 months in Guam as a cryptologic officer for naval intelligence. He was later a supervising cryptologic officer with the Naval Security Fleet Support Division at Fort Meade, Maryland. He left the Navy at the rank of lieutenant commander. His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

As part of his work in cryptology, Montel teamed with the National Security Agency and was involved in the victory in Grenada in 1983. On several occasions, Montel has worked to get United States citizens — usually military personnel who have been captured in foreign lands — returned to America.

In the 1990s and early part of the 2000s, The Montel Williams Show was synonymous with excellence, empathy and intelligence. Some argue Montel is on the “Mt. Rushmore” of day-time talk show legends, alongside Oprah and others.

In 1999, after years of excruciating pain that, at times, had him crying during commercial breaks, Montel was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was bad and good news all at once — bad because MS is painful and debilitating; good because he finally knew what was ailing him and could move forward with treatment.

More than two decades after his diagnosis, Montel lives an active, purposeful life. A fun one, too. One of his favorite activities is snowboarding, which he says helps his balance in day-to-day living.

A Healthy Balance

Montel Williams, Debra Hixon, wife of late Navy Veteran Chris Hixon, his son Corey, and Hixon’s sister-in-law.
From left: Montel Williams, Hixon’s sister-in-law, his son Corey, and Debra Hixon, wife of late Navy Veteran Chris Hixon.

Balance is what makes him a perfect fit for The Balancing Act, a morning show that empowers viewers to live balanced, healthy lives. Montel, who suffered a stroke in 2018, and just keeps going like the Eveready Battery, knows a thing or two about balance. If success is measured by how many people you’ve helped, Montel is rich beyond his monetary millions and accomplished far beyond his worldwide fame.

He goes back again and again to those values he learned in boot camp. Take the following episode of Military Makeover:

After Aaron and Holly Middleton met at a Columbus bar after graduating Ohio State University, it was love at first sight. Though unfamiliar with the rigors of military family life, Holly went all in, giving up her own career to find fulfillment as a mother. Aaron is now a major and senior communications officer serving at USMC Forces Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

The family has faced overwhelming adversity. First, their newborn son, Kelvin, was diagnosed with holes in his lungs, requiring immediate surgeries. Then, unspeakable tragedy struck the family when the Middleton’s’ 5-year-old daughter Scarlett died from an undiagnosed illness.

Montel Williams with Holly and Aaron Middleton, who lost their 5-year-old daughter Scarlett, and began a foundation in her honor, “Scarlett’s Sunshine.”
From left: Montel Williams with Holly and Aaron Middleton, who lost their 5-year-old daughter Scarlett, and began a foundation in her honor, “Scarlett’s Sunshine.”

The shock and trauma of Scarlett’s passing has shaken the family to its core. Scarlett loved picking and giving away flowers, and her favorite song was, “You Are My Sunshine.” Through pain and inspiration, Holly promised to keep alive the joy Scarlett brought to everybody who knew her. The grieving mother created a charity called Scarlett’s Sunshine, using random acts of kindness with flowers to induce spontaneous smiles.

“Little did I know that when I gave people the flowers, and I saw the gratitude on their faces light up, that I would see Scarlett’s light again,” Holly says. “I found her light.” The Middletons’ home in St. Petersburg— the first they’ve owned since Aaron joined the Corps— needed a lot of help. Military Makeover worked to make it a place of healing and solace for this deserving military family.

As the cherry on top, the show donated a year’s worth of flowers to Scarlett’s Sunshine. “It feels like a miracle,” Holly said, when presented with the flowers. Which brought a smile to Montel’s face.

That’s the miracle of Montel’s life, which mirrors the lives of all U.S. veterans.

Rolling Stone And Philip Morris International Celebrate Veterans With Rolling Stone Salute To Service

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Rolling Stone promo for Salute to Service event

Kicking off this Veterans Day, November 11, Rolling Stone is proud to pay tribute to our veterans and troops with Rolling Stone Salute To Service, presented by Philip Morris International.

This three-part panel and performance series celebrating Veterans will include deep discussions on the progress that has been made to more inclusively support them, and performances by top artists in support of Veterans and their service.

Each of the three conversations, brought to viewers through a virtual screening experience, will be moderated by Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith, Jerry Portwood and Joseph Hudak and include exclusive appearances from today’s top talent and representatives from top Veterans associations.

Participating talent includes Trace Adkins, Lea DeLaria, Justin Moore, S.G. Goodman, and Michael Ray. Participating Veterans organization representatives includes Julz Carey (AVER) Joe Chenelly (AMVETS), Donna Brock (U.S. Army Women’s Foundation), Ken Falke (Boulder Crest), Justin Brown (The Nimitz Group), Margaret Harrell, PhD (Bob Woodruff Foundation) and more…

To register for the events and for more information, visit rollingstonesalutetoservice.com.

Conversations will include:
• Salute to Minority Veterans (November 11, 12pm PT/3pm ET)
o Moderated by Rolling Stone editor Jamil Smith, this conversation will focus on the increasing number of women, minorities and LGBTQ Veterans and their experience and the mirrored experiences of minority talent and their personal journeys.
o Talent includes: Jamil Smith, Lea DeLaria, Julz Carey (AVER), Donna Brock (U.S. Army Women’s Foundation)
• Veteran Mental Health Awareness (November 19, 12pm PT/3pm ET)
o Led by Rolling Stone editor Jerry Portwood, this roundtable will discuss the need for increased awareness and response to veteran mental health as well as the role this conversation takes in the national dialogue on mental health.
o Talent includes: Jerry Portwood, Justin Moore, Michael Ray, Ken Falke (Boulder Crest), Justin Brown (The Nimitz Group)
• Veteran Advocacy and Support (December 1, 12pm PT/3pm ET)
o Facilitated by Rolling Stone editor Joseph Hudak, tune in to hear a lively discussion regarding modern day Veteran support, the current Veteran experience in America as well as personal stories from guests on their involvement in the cause. Sign up here (link) to attend these meaningful discussions around today’s service-member experience.
o Talent includes: Joseph Hudak, Trace Adkins, Joe Chenelly (AMVETS), and Margaret C. Harrell, PhD (Bob Woodruff Foundation)

Variety Announces Salute to Service Special Premiering Veterans Day on the History Channel

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Variety's Salute to Service promo poster

The fourth annual VARIETY’S SALUTE TO SERVICE PRESENTED BY HISTORY® AND VOICES MAGNIFIED, a celebration honoring our veterans and servicemembers and contributions by various individuals who continue to shine a light on the military and related organizations, was recently announced.

The special will air on The HISTORY® Channel on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11th at 10pm ET / PT. The special will include appearances by Trace Adkins, Kevin Bacon, Bryan Cranston, Jake Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Wilmer Valderrama, Kellie Pickler, Kelly Ripa, Shaggy and Gary Sinise as they pay tribute to the courageous servicemembers.

The program will highlight organizations such as Headstrong, Team Rubicon, The Bush Institute, Gary Sinise Foundation and the USO – which will showcase its work with the troops since its inception and its current initiatives during Covid-19.

Bryan Cranston will present the USO segment which is a non-profit partner of the program. Also featured will be Verizon, which employs more than 10,000 veterans as part of its workforce. In 2020, for the third year in a row, Verizon was voted the #1 Military Friendly Company for its commitment to serving the military community.

“Words cannot express our gratitude to the veterans for all their sacrifices for our freedom, but this Veterans Day, we strive to honor those fearless men and women.  It was crucial to us to keep our annual Salute to Service event going and to pay tribute and recognize those who have given so much to keep our country safe and strong,” said PMC Vice Chairman, Gerry Byrne. Byrne is a United Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and works across all of PMC’s platforms to support veteran’s initiatives.  “We are thankful for the continued support by The HISTORY Channel.”

“Variety’s Salute to Service is an important opportunity to honor our nations veterans and service members and give a platform to many of the excellent organizations out there who are helping veterans and military families,” said Paul Buccieri, President, A+E Networks Group. “Honoring and celebrating our veterans and military families has been a long-term priority for The HISTORY Channel and A+E Networks and we are proud to have the opportunity to get these organizations in front of viewers and encourage our audiences to learn more about their vital work.”

The HISTORY Channel has an on-going commitment to mobilizing support for veterans and military families through the award-winning Mission to Honor initiative which acknowledges the many vital contributions of veterans and shares their stories across all platforms. Through this initiative, The HISTORY Channel collaborates with many of the nation’s leading veterans’ organizations to help showcase the many ways veterans and military families give back to their communities through service.

ABOUT VARIETY

Now celebrating its 115th year anniversary, Variety is the seminal voice of the entertainment industry. Featuring award-winning breaking news reporting, insightful award-season coverage, must-read feature spotlights and intelligent analysis of the industry’s most prominent players, Variety is the trusted source for the business of global entertainment. Read by a highly engaged audience of industry insiders, Variety’s multi-platform content coverage expands across digital, mobile, social, print and branded content, events and summits.

In May 2019, Variety’s “Actors on Actors” on PBS took home a Daytime Creative Arts Emmy award  and has been awarded the Emmy for best entertainment programming at the 67th and 68th Emmy Awards. “Actors on Actors,” an interview special that features pairings of prominent actors discussing their craft, was produced by PBS SoCal in partnership with Variety Media, LLC. Follow Variety on Facebook facebook.com/variety; Twitter, @variety; Instagram, @Variety The Variety Group – Variety, Variety.com, Variety Insight, Indiewire,– is owned by Variety Media, LLC, a division of Penske Media Corporation.

ABOUT The HISTORY® Channel

The HISTORY Channel, a division of A+E Networks, is the premier destination for historical storytelling. From best-in-class documentary events, to a signature slate of industry leading nonfiction series and premium fact-based scripted programming, HISTORY serves as the most trustworthy source of informational entertainment in media. For a deeper dive, visit history.com or follow @history on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

About the USO:
The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs, services and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission and learn more about the USO, please visit USO.org or follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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