European edition, Sunday, July 15, 2007

With a career as a guitarist in a Grammy-winning band that’s sold millions of albums, Brad Avery has plenty to be grateful for. However, his most recent effort focuses his gratitude in one direction — toward U.S. servicemembers and their families.

Avery, of the rock band Third Day, helped his “music buddy” Scott Thomas write the song “Thank You.” The stirring ballad pays tribute to the sacrifice made by troops and their families, with such lyrics as, “I want to thank you. You’re miles away from home, fighting for truth. I want to thank you because I’m free and I know that you’re fighting for me.”

The desire to express thanks took root when Thomas was in an airport and met a soldier who was returning to Iraq after two weeks’ leave in the States.

“We want people who are sacrificing like that to know that they’re cared for, they’re loved, they’re appreciated,” said Avery, whose brother has served in the war. “I know that a song can’t do much. I know that’s in no way going to repay somebody for their sacrifice, but that’s our heart behind it. We’re just very appreciative.”

Expressing their own gratitude was only part of the goal for “Thank You.”

“We also were hoping that it would spur people to show other things,” Avery said. “People aren’t short of gratitude. People are thankful to our troops and our veterans.”

That desire meshed perfectly with the idea behind A Million Thanks, the campaign started by teenager Shauna Fleming that resulted in 2.6 million letters — one for each servicemember — being written by Americans. As a result, “Thank You” was recently selected as the official song of A Million Thanks.

Proceeds from downloads of the song will go to Fleming’s program and its new Wounded Warrior’s Wish initiative — “a neat opportunity for soldiers who’ve been injured in battle to request whatever they wish,” Avery said.

“Thank You” has not been Avery’s only project in recent months. Third Day is marking its 10th anniversary with a pair of CD/DVD sets. The first, covering 1996 to 2000, was released in March. The second set, which covers the next five years, will be released Aug. 7.

The first set has been one of the year’s biggest sellers in the Christian market and it seems likely that the second will join it. “Chronology Volume Two (2001-2006)” features 18 tracks from the era that saw the band win three Grammys. The songs include “Show Me Your Glory,” “Sing a Song,” “Nothing Compares,” “Come Together,” “God of Wonders,” “I See Love” and “Cry Out to Jesus.”

Selecting the songs wasn’t easy, Avery said.

“With nine records and 150 recorded songs, it’s hard to whittle is down to thirty-some songs (for both “Chronology” albums), he said. “Those are the ones, I guess, that we’ve played the most, been impacted by the most.”

The impact can also be felt in the companion video disc. A major portion of the DVD consists of an intriguing and entertaining behind-the-scenes view of the band — starting with its days as Nuclear Hoedown in the early 1990s.

“We kind of did a behind-the- music, behind-the-scenes look at the last 10 years,” Avery said. “I mean there’s a lot of old footage on there, and stuff, embarrassing things.”

The DVD also includes fan videos and “bootleg” videos.

It’s not surprising that the DVD also offers plenty of concert footage, because the band knows how to put on a great show. Avery wishes Third Day could share that with troops stationed overseas.

“We’ve wanted to do USO tours and things like that,” he said. “Our hope and our desire is that we’ll get a chance to go over there and play for the troops. … It’s been in our hearts for a long time.”

Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry.

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