If it seems like we've been bringing you plenty of news about many of the fine regional country artists who are quick to lend their names and talents to causes whose worthiness can't be questioned, well, that's because there's often a compelling story behind it.
On Monday, July 23, treasured Texan and country music hit-maker Jack Ingram and rising singer-songwriter Granger Smith teamed up with Southwest Airlines and The Boot Campaign to surprise Afghanistan war veteran Jeremy Smith and his fiancée with an in-flight concert.
But upon landing at Love Field, the concert would seem like an amuse-bouche to the biggest steak dinner of the couple's lives.
For many on the short post-lunch hour flight from Austin to Dallas, the whimsically oddball scenario of Ingram playing a few songs with an acoustic guitar into a fuzzed out intercom phone was enough to Instagram home about. It was a great bit of fun, and Ingram had little issue squeezing himself into the front entry of the plane and treating it like the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. The combination of his comical, pseudo-flight captain speak and the performance of three tunes, including his number one hit "Wherever You Are," was surely a grand improvement over perusing the Sky Mall catalog.
Thanks to the contributions of Southwest Airlines and an exciting partner they've worked with increasingly since last year, The Boot Campaign, an emerging Tyler-based charity that the Texas Country Music community has embraced with gusto, Smith, a Purple Heart recipient, was gifted with an ADA-outfitted house in Ft. Worth that's paid for in every way a house can be paid for. Smith would've likely been unable to afford such a residence on his own at this point, because of injuries to his legs and brain after an IED exploded next to him in 2009, as he served in Zormat, in the Paktia province of Afghanistan. With permanent brain damage and the need for cane assistance to walk, the still youthful vet has a place in the metroplex to bring his fiancée, Sarah, when they wed next year.
As Ingram, the Boot Girls (the five founding members of The Boot Campaign) and members of the press looked on, Major General Leroy Sisco (also a Texan) of the Military Warrior's Support Foundation presented the overwhelmed couple with a massive bronze "house key," giving the crowd of on-looking Southwest patrons and airport personnel the pay-off they had been waiting for.
As Smith posed for pictures with various bystanders and VIPs, Ingram, who has been involved with The Boot Campaign almost since its inception, explained to us while there were many special aspects to the afternoon, there was a key regional ingredient that made things feel even greater.
"The fact that a company as well-known as Southwest Airlines is an iconic name in Texas, and The Boot Campaign's impact has grown well beyond the borders of the state and we're all here honoring a deserving soldier from Texas gives the whole day a feeling of authenticity," Ingram says. "Really, it doesn't matter where we're all from, but we're all here now, doing what we can to make a difference."
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When, minutes after the surprise, Smith was asked about whether the couple was able to truly process this life-changing information, his answer was simple. As he grinned and wiped sweat from his shaved head, Smith said, "I don't think so. I don't know what to think right now. It's amazing and I just don't know what to say, really."
The fact is, Smith's heroic sacrifice, along with the love of his fiancée that was evident in her tear-filled eyes, was more than words would be able to describe. Texans helping a Texan who was looking to help a nation shouldn't require much explanation beyond that selflessly beautiful equation.