‘I love people who love their country’

Country star Neal McCoy will both serve as master of ceremonies at the opening of the 99th American Legion National Convention in Reno, Nev., on Aug. 22, and perform at the National Commander’s Banquet that evening. He recently spoke with the Legion on how a big part of his career has been about reaching out to others, and his excitement about spending time in Reno with “great patriots.”


What do you consider the driving force in your musical career? What keeps you going?

I enjoy people. I try to bring joy to a lot of people’s lives. I’m in a business where I get to do that.


What is your proudest moment as an artist?

All my USO work (McCoy has been on 15 tours since 2001). I’ve been to Iraq seven times, Afghanistan, Pakistan. It’s not even always to entertain – we can’t always – but to shake a hand or hug a neck, and tell them I appreciate them.


How did you get involved with the USO? Do any memories stand out among your tours?

My grandfather served in World War I, and my dad served during Korea in the Army in the Philippines; that’s where he met my mother. One of my first tours was in 2001 at Christmas; we flew into the Kandahar airport. I went with Drew Carey, Wayne Newton and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. We were about the first civilians; the troops had been there about 45 days. I gave an acoustical performance. It was so intense and so rewarding. I was so appreciative of what these younger folks were doing for our country.


What else does your humanitarian work focus on?

Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude’s and the charity my wife and I started, the East Texas Angel Network. We’re fortunate to have two healthy children. When our records were working good, I got booked for lots of benefits. People would pat you on the back. Eventually I wanted to start meeting the kids; the first I met was a 9-year-old bone marrow patient who later died. Today, we’ve helped over 500 families.


What inspired you to start your daily Facebook Pledge of Allegiance? What kind of feedback have you gotten?

I started it on Jan. 7, 2016, before Facebook Live; I started out posting the text and asked people to write it back. It was in the midst of the presidential campaign, and mud was being slung. And one day I just told myself I was going to post the Pledge. I sing it when I say it; things are easier to remember when it’s a melody. I’m going to try to put it to music.

My mother was 13 when the Japanese invaded the Philippines, at about the same time as Pearl Harbor. She told her kids that we ought to be appreciative of the American military and democracy. I’ve never forgotten it.


Is there a Legion history in your family?

My grandfather was in it.


What are you most looking forward to at the convention?

Being around those great patriots … I love people who love their country. An American Legion post’s goal is to give people a place to go to show their love of country.