SELBYVILLE — Over 30 wounded soldiers and their families will be feted next week, symbolically on Sept. 11, with a parade in their honor and a concert by national recording artist Aaron Tippin at The Freeman Stage as part of a week-long retreat at the shore through Operation SEAS the Day.
Patriotism and giving thanks will be on full display at the Freeman Stage in Selbyville next Friday, Sept. 11 in the midst of Operation SEAS the Day, a week-long warrior beach retreat for 30 wounded veterans and their families. The Very Important Families (VIFs), as they are called, will start a well-deserved week of rest and relaxation in and around the Delaware and Maryland beaches.
The veterans and their families will stay at vacation homes and condos donated by local residents, including many in the Sea Colony in Bethany Beach. The week kicks off with a welcome reception next Tuesday and concludes with a farewell breakfast on Sept. 13. In between, the wounded veterans and their families will enjoy the beach, play golf, ride jet skis, go horseback riding, play mini golf and enjoy meals at some of the finest restaurants in the resort area, all made possible by Operation SEAS the Day.
The highlight of the weekend event will almost certainly be the Hero’s Welcome Parade leading up to the concert at The Freeman Stage by popular country music star Aaron Tippin, whose patriotic song catalog strikes a nerve with his blue collar audience. Tippin will serve as Grand Marshal for the Hero’s Welcome Parade, which will begin in Bethany Beach and end at The Freeman Stage just prior to the concert next Friday, Sept. 11.
Tippin broke into the country music scene in Nashville in 1990 when an RCA executive heard him singing demos. He signed a record deal and joined a powerful RCA roster that included many of the top country performers at that time. One of his early singles “You Have to Stand for Something or You’ll Fall for Anything” hit the Billboard country music singles chart and peaked out at Number 6. The hit song also caught the attention of famed USO performer Bob Hope’s daughter, who invited the young country performer to go overseas and entertain the troops.
A year later in 1991, after the fateful Sept. 11 attacks, Tippin released another hit single “Where the Stars and Stripes and Eagles Fly,” which became an anthem of sorts in a post-9/11 era during which patriotism soared and Americans pulled together despite their differences following the tragic terrorism attacks.
Patriotism became a recurring theme in Tippin’s career, which has now reached 25 years. He has recently released a new album simply called “Aaron Tippin 25.” He has been over to Iraq and Afghanistan as many as 10 times to perform for the troops and his involvement in Operation SEAS the Day in and around the resort area next week is a logical progression in his unwavering support for the troops.
Tippin took time out of his busy schedule this week to do an interview with The Dispatch in advance of next week’s parade and concert at Freeman Stage. The following are some of the highlights of that discussion:
Q. Tell me about how you got involved in Operation SEAS the Day?
A. Actually, they booked me for the show first and this all came about sort of after the fact. It’s going to be a real privilege for me. I was in the Persian Gulf doing a show for the military in 1990 and that was there this all began 25 years ago.
Q. I like the fact they’re called VIFs, or Very Important Families. How special will it be to host them and do this show?
A. It’s my privilege. It’s going to be an opportunity for them to set aside their cares for a while and we’re going to have a great time. I want to do all of these events I can do.
Q. Can you tell me a little about the USO tours in Iraq and Afghanistan?
A, It’s always special to go over there and go down range and entertain them. I think I’ve been over there now nine or 10 times. This is the finest military on the planet and I want to do everything I can for these heroes.
Q. Obviously, the significance is not lost on holding this parade and concert for wounded soldiers and their families on Sept. 11?
A. I have a song “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagles Fly” and that came out right after 9/11. Wherever I am playing or whatever I’m doing, I always sing it every year on that sad day. It will be extra special this year because of what we’re doing here and the importance of that date. I wanted to talk to Americans about who we are at heart, and the fact that when the going gets tough, that’s when we really stand up. We may have a lot of differences when everything is calm and fine, but when it hits the fan, I think we’re the best in the world at sticking together and rallying around the cause. That song served that purpose very well.
Q. It seems patriotism is tested every day. How can an event like this pull people together?
A. I really believe patriotism and pride in this country are alive and well. I see it every day. I’m at this event or another, or walking through an airport and I see evidence of patriotism everywhere. I think some of our enemies have really awakened patriotism in this country.
Q. One of your early big hits is “You Have to Stand for Something or You’ll Fall for Anything.” Does that message still resonate today?
A. I firmly believe that. We all have to take a stand for something, whatever it is we believe in strongly. For me, it’s these men and women of our armed forces. They need our support now more than ever.
Q. With that said, I’m sure it will be a big honor to be the Grand Marshal of the Hero’s Welcome Parade because these families truly are our heroes.
A. Absolutely. In my mind, this is mission one. I’m so proud to have the opportunity to do this.