Trace Adkins jokes that he doesn’t know much about social media and technology — “Silly songs and pickup trucks: I’m your guy,” he says — but the Grammy-nominated country singer is selling himself short. For the past decade, Adkins has been making invaluable, long-lasting connections with U.S. veterans through his work with the USO and, especially, the Wounded Warrior Project. Adkins, whose 12 USO tours steered him toward working more closely with veterans support organizations, has been the Wounded Warrior Project‘s celebrity spokesperson since 2010.
“I’ve been involved with Wounded Warrior Project almost since their inception. It’s been one of the most gratifying, rewarding things that I’ve ever done,” Adkins says. “In my career, I just can’t think of any other organization that I’ve been involved with that just moved me the way my work with Wounded Warrior Project has.”
On Tuesday, December 1st, Adkins talks about the importance of veteran advocacy and support during the third and final installment of Rolling Stone‘s Salute to Service panel. The Louisiana native discusses the flesh-and-blood relationships with U.S. servicemen and women he’s formed over the years, and why the Wounded Warrior Project is an essential nonprofit. Adkins, a Grand Ole Opry member since 2003, will also perform his song “Still a Soldier.”
In Adkins’ experience with wounded veterans, he’s been struck by how many share the same goal: to rejoin their colleagues in active duty. “That’s all they want to do is go back, because they couldn’t find solace or comfort here. They just want to go back,” he says. “It’s sad to see those folks and visit with them. You can hear that pain. I’ve been around a lot of them and talked to a lot of them and it leaves you feeling helpless.”
Still, the singer, who released the EP Ain’t That Kind of Cowboy in October, is bolstered by the progress he’s witnessed. “There have been so many success stories,” Adkins says. “They come back and they get the help they need and it’s a wonderful thing to see when that does happen.”
Past editions of Rolling Stone‘s Salute to Service series included senior writer Jamil Smith examining underrepresented veteran groups, and digital director Jerry Portwood probing mental health with a panel that included “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” country singer Justin Moore.
To register for Rolling Stone’s Salute to Service series sign up at RollingStoneSalutetoService.com. (Must be at least 21 years of age to attend.)