‘I still have more to give’: Country singer Craig Morgan reenlists in Army at 59
Stars and Stripes July 30, 2023
The Army’s recruitment numbers were so dire in the fall that country singer Craig Morgan turned to his friend, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, and told her that he wanted to reenlist.
There was one problem: At 58, the Army veteran was only a few years away from the military’s mandatory retirement age of 62.
So Blackburn, then a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, decided to step in and help. She began working with the Defense Department and the Army, pressing them to allow Morgan to step back into uniform.
Morgan was sworn into the Army Reserve on Saturday night in front of a crowd of concertgoers at the storied Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. He was joined on stage by Gen. Andrew Poppas, commander of Army Forces Command, Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims and Blackburn, R-Tenn.
“I realized that there’s so much that I’ve missed — the friends, the feeling of the sense of accomplishment,” Morgan said in a video explaining his decision. “I realized that I’ve missed it so much and I truly believe that I still have more to give.”
Morgan’s initial stint in the military lasted 17 years, nearly a decade of them on active duty. He deployed to South Korea and served in the Army and Army Reserve as a staff sergeant and fire support specialist with the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. In 1989, he participated in the U.S. invasion of Panama.
“This was my first test in combat, the real crucible of a soldier,” Morgan wrote of Panama in his book, “God, Family, Country: A Memoir.” “You never know how you're going to react when the bullets fly until you face them. I think we did well.”
Morgan said he grew up poor and the Army gave him a place to stay and a way to take care of his family. He credited his service with showing him the world and giving him an appreciation for America and the little things in life.
“We all had a goal of doing and being a part of something that was bigger and greater than just ourselves,” he said. “I have taken that with me on everything that I have done since I've been out.”
Blackburn said she often hears from veterans who regret leaving the military and jumped at the chance to bolster the Army’s ranks, even by one soldier.
“We all need to be paying attention to recruiting numbers,” she said. “When you hear that only 9% or 10% of today's young people want to consider a military career, we should be asking why that is.”
The Army is on track to miss its recruiting goal by 10,000 this year, Blackburn said. The shortfall is smaller than last year’s 15,000 enlistment gap but still presents a worrying trend for lawmakers.
Blackburn said Morgan is setting an inspiring example for potential Army recruits and offering the Army a familiar face for its recruiting efforts.
“There are people that are Craig Morgan fans all across the globe,” she said. “The fact that you've got somebody that's a Grand Ole Opry member and somebody who is a well-known country music star, and they're going to put on that uniform and serve their country, help recruit, help build morale — I think it’s awesome.”
Morgan has been a frequent presence at concerts for troops for years, performing in Afghanistan, Iraq and more recently at the Army garrison in Grafenwöhr, Germany, in December.
“He’s always out there, he visits soldiers everywhere, whether it’s in the States, overseas,” said Poppas, who administered the oath of service to Morgan. “I’ve seen him in combat locations and he’s always engaging, he’s always entertaining and he’s always inspiring those that have put themselves in harm’s way. He’s a hell of a patriot.”
Morgan will continue touring and releasing music while serving in the Army Reserve. He began his dual career, as a musician and warrant officer, on Saturday night.
“Haven’t sung in uniform in a long time,” Morgan said during the Nashville concert, before launching into a song dedicated to his fellow soldiers.