Ronnie Dunn admits he doesn't know much about Operation Support Our Troops – America, but he's willing to help veterans in any way he can.
Dunn, best known for being half of the country music duo Brooks & Dunn, is the headliner for the 10th annual Rockin' for the Troops fundraiser concert on July 20 at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Tickets for the all-day event cost $25 and available online at www.osotamerica.org.
Along with Dunn, performers include Motown tribute band The Voices, rock tribute band and original music by Kimo Williams Band and rockers Arra.
"I got a call from my manager and we were able to do it," Dunn said in a recent phone interview. "We've done countless things to support the troops – concerts at military bases all over the country.
"It would be great to not have troops in harm's way, but at the same time, there's always going to be an opportunity to serve and pay tribute to them," Dunn said.
According to its website, Operation Support Our Troops – America's mission is "to support the morale and wellbeing of American forces by providing comfort, resources and education to them and their families both while they are deployed in harm’s way and after their return. As a volunteer-based nonprofit organization, we provide the opportunity for our community members to express their appreciation and offer support for our troops. Engaged in the longest war of our country’s history and with our servicemen and women completing multiple tours of duty, we are committed to showing them that 'We Have NOT Forgotten.'"
The packing and shipping of care packages to deployed servicemen and servicewomen is one of the many things the organization does.
Supporting the troops is not the only charitable work Dunn has done lately. He was one of several performers at Toby Keith's Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert on July 6.
"We were actually on the ground outside Oklahoma City when the tornado came through Moore," Dunn said.
Because of expected bad weather, Dunn said he opted not to fly back to Nashville from a concert in Santa Fe, N.M., "because sometimes things get backed up in Dallas."
He said his bus driver was still sleeping when he got up and saw the sky was pretty gray. He said he turned on the news to learn a tornado had touched down in Moore.
"He fired up the bus and we hit the road. We drove parallel to that storm system all the way to Memphis," Dunn said.
That experience may find its way into a song in the future as Dunn's music continues to evolve.
"I listen to everybody," he said. "My dad was a hard-core country fan, so I had to sneak around to listen to anything outside the genre as a kid. I liked the way the Stones rocked it, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, you name it.
"These days, country has merged with rock in many ways. We're hearing hybrid versons of hip hop and rap even trickling into the genre," Dunn said.
In response to critics who call his new music "not country enough," Dunn responds, "there's a place for that. I embrace it all. I can come out of a good, rocking song and dive into a hard-core country song."
"We're at a time in this business when we're redefining the rules."
If you go
Rockin' for the Troops
Saturday, July 20
Gates open at noon; entertainment starts at 2:30 p.m.
Cantigny Park, Wheaton
Free parking at RR Donnelly and DuPage County Government Center; free shuttle service provided
For tickets and more information, visit www.osotamerica.org