Thomas Rhett is surrounded by connections to the military that keep life in perspective. With one cousin in the Marines, another who is a former member of the Army and numerous friends who have served, Rhett feels a kinship with those who make valiant sacrifices.
He comes to face-to-face with many of these people, who also call themselves his fans. Every night before a show, Rhett hosts a meet-and-greet where he’s often introduced to spouses of those serving overseas. He always obliges when they ask him to take a video sending a message to their loved ones and even after the night is over, those interactions have a lingering impact on the singer.
"Those moments are extremely sad because you feel so bad for the wife or the husband whose spouse is away, but you know that what they're doing over there is very, very heroic work and allows us to be able to even do things like play shows,” Rhett shares with Taste of Country. “It's been pretty impactful getting to meet people who have done it directly and people who are suffering that sacrifice while their spouse is away."
Rhett is faced with the reality of what life is like for those who fight for our country when he talks to his friends who have experienced it firsthand, some who have served for more than 20 years. When they share their experiences with him, he tries to put himself in their shoes, empathizing with what it would be like to be so far from loved ones, and living in dire conditions while family and friends are celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas across the world.
"When you hear those kinds of stories, you're immediately humbled,” he describes. “I think it's a concept you can't fully grasp unless you've done it. So it's really nice to be able to have friends that have been through it to kind of start to gain a perspective of what they have been through and what they are continually going through."
He turns these words into action with a partnership with the Crown Royal Purple Bag Project. The initiative sends small bags to service members and people recovering from natural disasters, packed with essentials like personal care items, along with gifts that remind them of home, including Tennessee favorites like Goo Goo Clusters and Loveless Café jam.
The singer hasn’t done a USO Tour yet, but it’s a dream he plans to make a reality within the next few years. Until then, he’s using this project as a way to make an impact. The bags also include a handwritten note, one where puts his gratitude into a thoughtful phrase: "God bless you and your family, thank you so much for your service.”
“What do you say to a person that you don't know besides 'thank you so much for allowing me to live this freedom in our country. Hope this can make a small dent in making you happy today,’” he reflects.
The project is an extension of the mission he and wife Lauren set out on when they married in 2012. Lauren is an active supporter of 147 Million Orphans, an organization that helps people around the world living in poverty. Rhett has thrown his support behind the cause as well, participating in charity events to help raise money. “It's always been at the forefront of our brains to make sure that we use this platform for good and use it to give back,” he acknowledges. “It's something that we believe in pretty passionately."