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Country music artist Brad Paisley meets with wounded warriors and their family members at the fourth annual “Salute to the Military” USO concert. (USO photo by Jackie McLeod)
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PHOTOS: Brad Paisley Rocks the Fourth of July at the White House's 'Salute to the Troops'

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Country music superstar Brad Paisley could not have been more at home as the highlight of the “Salute to the Troops” Fourth of July celebration held on the South Lawn of the White House. Even if he admitted that the setting and occasion left him a bit awe-struck.

“It means a lot,” Paisley said prior to taking the stage in front of approximately 1,200 servicemen and women and their families. “This is a large portion of military people here and I couldn’t be more proud to be able to entertain them on this day, a day that they make possible.”

And if the concept of performing in front of America’s most famous home had him excited, it was equaled by who the concert was honoring.

“Going back to Bob Hope and what he did during many, many wars, the best thing you can possibly to do for troops is raise morale, I think. Besides giving them the tools they need to fight. But those tools are nothing without an inspired band of brothers and sisters out there. So it’s really the best thing we can do as musicians and entertainers is to raise their spirits. We need them enthusiastic to do their jobs.”

After enjoying an hour-long set that included many of Paisley’s greatest hits which set the stage for Washington’s fireworks display, Paisley’s enthusiasm for the job that our nation’s military performs was unmistakable.

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Country music artist Brad Paisley poses for a photo on the White House South Lawn with wounded troops and their family members prior to the concert.

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Paisley spent a great deal of time talking with the troops and their families before the performance, listening to their stories and discussing their lives.

"I know how big of a portion of my audience military people make up," Paisley said. "I mean, country music is well loved by them, just based on the troops I get to talk to and the troops I get to meet."

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President Barack Obama followed a short address with handshakes at the rope line, along with a few high-fives.

"It is always such an honor for us to spend this holiday with members of our military and your extraordinary families," President Obama said in his remarks. "All of you represent what is best in America. You serve under our proud flag. You and your families sacrifice more than most of us can ever know -- all in defense of those God-given rights that were first put to paper 236 years ago: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

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First Lady Michelle Obama joined the president in greeting the military families, as well.

President Obama said: "All the men and women who stand with us here this afternoon are an example of this generation of heroes -- this 9/11 generation that has earned its place in history alongside the greatest generations."

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Paisley energized the audience by wading into the crowd several times while jamming on his guitar and placing his hat on a lucky child in the crowd for a souvenir he'll never forget.

"It’s pretty remarkable how important I think [country music is], because we’re a pretty patriotic format," he said. "If there’s any format that you think of when it comes to patriotism it’s probably us. So this means a lot to me to be able to do this today."

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For Paisley, his wife, kids and parents, the chance to meet the first family and take in some of Washington's fireworks was a nice side benefit to entertaining the miltary families.

"It's really meaningful," he said. "It’s the Fourth of July. What’s funny is, it’s kind of what we’d be doing only in a way less picturesque and patriotic setting … It’s really a blast for me. I got to bring my boys with me, they’re 3 and 5 [Jasper and Huck], get their photo taken with the president. We got to walk through and take a tour of the White House. We’ll never forget it. And we have the photos to prove it."

Approximately 1,200 troops and their families attended the event, which included a Fourth of July smorgasbord of American cookout treats and plenty of activities for the kids. Read more about the event. 

* See more images from the tour of our Flickr site. 

* Read our USO Q&A with Brad Paisley. 

(USO photos by Jackie McLeod / Produced by Christian Pelusi) 

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