The Hendricks family was due for some quality time, and the USO had just the ticket. Two of them, in fact.
Within weeks of Sgt. Richie Hendricks return from deployment, USO Fort Campbell announced on their Facebook page that a generous donor had given two passes to each night of the CMA Music Festival, the largest country music festival of the year in Nashville, Tennessee. The only requirement to win the tickets was to share a story about why going to the event was so important.
USO Fort Campbell Program Director Kelli Pendleton and others read dozens of stories from spouses seeking to give a gift to a significant other. The first set of tickets was given to the Hendricks family, whose story included the following passage:
“The reason I would love to win these tickets is to surprise my wife with a date night she has not had in over a year-and-a-half,” Hendricks wrote. “She has been a single mom that whole time due to a year deployment I just returned from in March and then immediately afterwards in April I was sent to Texas [to attend the Army’s Advanced Leader Course] and for a few months before I left we were training for deployment. My wife is the biggest country fan I know and she has made me into a huge country fan, and it’s the one genre of music we can listen to and just relax and have a good time. I would love to get these tickets and take her to the concert and give her the one night she has not had in such a long time and make her truly happy.”
The Hendrickses received a pair of tickets to the opening-night show on June 5.
“This was the perfect way to end a long year away from each other,” said Danielle Hendricks, a former soldier, military spouse and mother of two.“Being pregnant and not having your husband by your side through it was hard, plus raising a 2-year-old who was completely attached to her daddy was the hardest part because she didn’t understand why she couldn’t have her daddy with her.”
The Hendrickses have been married for five years, but 24-year-old Danielle, originally from San Bernardino, California, has been country music fan her whole life.
“CMA fest was amazing,” she said. “When we found out we were going to CMA fest I couldn’t stop smiling. I have always wanted to go but never lived close enough or had the opportunity.
“All the artists were better live then I imagined. The fans of country music are always so nice and cheerful it makes for a great experience to be surrounded by people who share the same love for country music.”
“The shows were absolutely amazing and completely shattered our expectations,” said 24-year-old Richie Hendricks of Monroe, Michigan. “The fans were so great and we were all immediately friends before the concert even started it seemed like.”
As it turns out, this wasn’t the Hendricks’ first — or even second — experience with the USO.
Richie was introduced to a USO volunteer before he even met his first drill sergeant due to a delay getting to boot camp, and USO Northwest rescued his growing family when they were caught in a long delay at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“It was Christmas and we had our daughter at the time and she was under a year old and this USO had a nursery with cribs and a changing table and extra diapers,” Danielle said. “[It] was such a lifesaver that we had that available to us in such a tight spot.”
“They absolutely saved the day,” Richie said. “The staff was absolutely amazing and made my wife feel really comfortable with the whole situation.
“The USO has been absolutely amazing throughout my military career from literally day one,” he added. “We’re both grateful to be at home, together with our family, and even more grateful to have the support of our fellow countrymen who so generously gave these tickets to us through the USO. You made our year.”