“It's not about me. It's about the kids and the other volunteers,” he said referring to the young veterans who receive educational help from the concert proceeds.
He explained the importance of local veterans benefiting. Brown said there are multiple organizations that raise money for wounded warriors, but that they are national and, “This is local.”
“The money people give is utilized here. The net proceeds of what we do is for East Texas. That part is pretty special,” said Brown, who has served with the National Guard in Bosnia and in Iraq, owns several Tyler-area businesses, and is actively involved in several community organizations.
For the past three years, Mary and Paul Pennington, who own Villa di Felicita, have raised money through Country for Our Country to benefit soldiers returning from tours of duty and have difficulty reintegrating into civilian life.
Tickets to the Oct. 6 event are $2,000 per table of 10, or $200 individually. The last three events have raised more than $260,000 to purchase books, computers or to help soldiers finish their education.
The Country for our Country concert will feature Rodney Atkins, recipient of the Academy of Country Music's Top New Male Vocalist of the year in 2006. He has multiple awards and multiple No. 1 hits including “If you're going through hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)” and “It's America.”
The Saturday concert also includes Derek Sholl and Heidi Newfield, as well as newcomers Wayland Hicks and The Backroad Travelers, Jaida Dreyer and Storme Warren.
Brown said Mrs. Pennington wanted to do something for the soldiers returning to East Texas. The two of them discussed ideas, and decided having a concert would be the best course of action. “We liked this idea, and this is what we pursued,” Brown said.
Out of those discussions came the idea to create the Country for Our Country nonprofit organization.
Proceeds from the upcoming concert will help fund five $10,000 scholarships to Tyler Junior College, The University of Texas at Tyler, Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas College and Texas A&M University.
On Oct. 5, there will be a special concert and tribute to Vietnam veterans. That event takes place at Villa di Felicita, the night before the Country for our Country concert. The Vietnam veterans concert will feature food and drink; the traveling Vietnam Wall; live music by Kayla Conn featuring Nick Verzosa and the Noble Union Band; Miranda Lambert's father, Rick Lambert, and a word from Brown. Tickets for the Friday event are $50.
Tyler Ford's David Irwin, whose dealership is the lead sponsor for the Country for our Country concert, also has more than a passing interest in helping veterans return to productive lives. He's an Army veteran, serving from 1984-1988 as a helicopter crew chief and door gunner. His grandfather served in World War II, his uncle in the Vietnam War.
With Irwin's backing and support, last year's Country for Our Country benefit concert raised a record $131,000 to help injured veterans transition home with dignity.
“By being a veteran, this is something that I think is our responsibility,” Irwin said after last year's concert. “To take care of these vets is our responsibility as a society and it's our responsibility as veterans to take care of them.”
Brown said that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 changed everyone's lives and changed our country. Many young men and women joined the military then because they wanted to be a part of something larger than themselves.
“All of the people that served are changed — it's something that happens,” he said. Both concerts are a way to give something back to those who have served, he said.
The impact of both concerts on local soldiers is significant, Brown said Wednesday.
“For some who are more severely wounded, it gives them an opportunity for integration into the community and an opportunity to interact with people who are appreciative of what they've done,” Brown said. “It's healing in other ways to get together with other soldiers.”
Those who are serving shy away from recognitions, Brown said. “We have a great party for wounded warriors, and we tell them we appreciate them,” he said. They recently paid for a veteran to take an online course that the Veteran's Administration normally doesn't pay for, Brown said.
“We're not giving a hand out; we're giving a helping hand,” he said.
If there's a wounded warrior or veteran out there who needs assistance, specifically through education, Brown said the organization wants to help them.
For additional information, contact Villa di Felicita at 903-597-0002 or visit www.countryforourcountry.org.
Entertainment Editor Stewart Smith contributed to this story.