Photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher DeWitt, USAF
Michael Peterson, courtesy of the USO, speaks to servicemembers at Forward Operating Base Gardez, Afghanistan, on Nov. 23. He performed songs and gave thanks for the sacrifice and inspiration of all those in the military.
Peterson traded hats with a young soldier who's a huge country music fan. Army Spc. Candace Smith walked away with Peterson's cowboy hat, which he had hand carried from the states in a protective plastic case, and he'll wear a 10th Mountain Division baseball cap home tomorrow. "He was great," Smith said. "I loved it!" Then Peterson got serious, earning respect and cheers from many in the standing-room-only crowd when he explained that he left the music industry 10 years ago as he was on the cusp of being a household name. After 700 concerts in fewer than three years, he was on the verge of sacrificing his family for stardom when he decided to leave it behind.
"It was a lousy career decision, but I've still got my family," he said. "And you know what I figured out? If you're lucky, you'll maybe get a second chance to do with your life what you love to do whether you're famous or not, but you may not get a second chance at your family. So I know I made one of the greatest decisions I ever made." But patriotism drove him back into music. "I knew that I still loved to do music. What happened to me was a daughter who became a battalion commander in a Junior ROTC group of about 350 high school students, combined with 9-11, combined with seeing a cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine with Pat Tillman on it and how deeply that moved me and inspired me," Peterson said at Bagram.