ABC News’ Producer Angel Canales and Editor Arthur Niemynski report:
Born in the small town of Kingston Springs, Tenn., Craig Morgan was always surrounded by music. His father was a bass player and that gave Morgan close access to classic country stars such as Vern Gosdin, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, among others.
“Music was always a part of my life at the time and, ironically, it wasn’t something I wanted to do,” said Morgan.
At 10, he sang the national anthem during a school field trip to Nashville in front of a crowd that included one of country music’s most beloved and recognized comedians, Minnie Pearl, who told him “Son, someday you’re going to be famous singer,” said Morgan.
Long before becoming a country music star, Morgan joined the Army at 18.
“I felt like one of the ways that I could best benefit my country and America was to serve it,” says Morgan.
He joined the Army and served for 10 years in active duty in Army’s 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions as a fire support specialist and was responsible for calling and directing fire assets of the Army’s field artillery team.
“I love the Army, the people, the opportunity to travel and to serve,” he said.
He also served in the Army Reserve for almost 10 years and, during that time, Morgan’s passion for music led him to write songs and perform while in service.
“Music was something that I did to pass time and they were very encouraging – and if it weren’t for some of my buddies and some of my leaders in the military, I probably wouldn’t have left the Army and pursued it,” said Morgan. “They were like, ‘Dude, you gotta do this. We believe in you.’”
But he was hesitant to leave given that his father was in the business and he knew how tough it could be to be an artist.
“At first, I didn’t want to be a musician because I always thought that to be a musician you had to do three other things to make a living,” he said.
Morgan’s transition from the Army to the country music circle was slow.
“The reason I stayed in the reserves was because I expected that the music career wouldn’t work and I’ll go back in the Army and won’t lose any of my time in active service,” said Morgan.
The turning point for him was during one of his counseling sessions with his commanding officer to discuss his reenlistment.
“He said, ‘You could possibly be the sergeant major of the Army one day. You have the potential to do that and you have a great skill se,t but I also believe that you should not pass up the opportunity to be a singer. I believe you have a shot at that,’” Morgan said.
It was those words that gave Morgan the motivation to follow his passion for music and the support of fans.
“I had a hit record on country radio and I was still going to my weekend drills,” said Morgan. ”I knew the weekend that I went in and there were people at the gate waiting to get my autograph that it was probably time for me to move on.”
His move to the country music scene paid off. In 2002, he released the single, “Almost Home,” earning him a “Song of the Year” award from Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and a Songwriter’s Achievement Award from the Nashville Songwriter’s Association.
It’s the outlet for me to express everything I am,” he said. “When I’m on stage, I get to express all of it.”
Morgan has continued to prove himself a great songwriter and artist. His new album, “The Journey (Livin’ Hits),” from Black River Entertainment, is an autobiography that includes eight of his top career hits and new ones, including, “Wake Up Loving You,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester,” “This Ole Boy” and “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” which was No. 1 in on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart.
“With this album, I felt I was in one of the most comfortable places I’ve ever been,” he said. “It’s exciting to have hit songs. It’s more exciting to re-record them.
“As a soldier, I felt that I could dictate my future,” he said. “I could work hard and I could show that I had the skill set to excel, and I could. Being a musician is not like that. You’re dependent on everyone else. No matter how good a song you write or how good you might sing that song, you’re really dependent. But the most rewarding thing is when you sing or write a song and you go out there and perform it and you see the impact that it has on people’s lives. You go sit back on the bus and you go, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ It is amazing what a song can do.”
Morgan still has a connection to the military and has remained a supporter of troops overseas by performing for U.S.O.’s Toast to the Troops.
“It allows me to maintain that relationship with the military by doing tours overseas entertaining troops,” he said. “I’m one of the more fortunate ones, because even though I’m not in the active military and the reserves I still get to maintain those relationships through my occupation.”
Second Tour is an ABC News digital series profiling the lives of military veterans who are doing unique things in the civilian world. For more stories visit http://abcnews.go.com/US/Second_Tour/.