“This song is true from beginning to end. The first time I ever performed this song was in the Middle East, 16 months after I wrote it about a true incident that happened to me while driving in Nashville.I recorded it only because so many of the troops asked me to. So…I did. The Marine Corps sticker that I have on my SUV was given to me by my brother, Chris, just days before he was shipped off for duty in Iraq.” – Chely Wright
Country music and patriotism have always gone hand-in-hand. Whether it be in times of war or peace, American anthems have been fan-favorite country songs for decades, and there is a slew of country tunes that proudly proclaim the beauty and benefits of the United States of America.
None is truer and has a more meaningful story than Wright’s single, “Bumper of My S.U.V.”
In January 2003, three days before Wright’s brother, Gunnery Sgt. Christopher L. Wright was set to deploy to Iraq, he sent her a letter. Enclosed were an American flag and a Marine Corps sticker.
“I have never put a sticker on my vehicle,” Wright said. “But I did it mainly out of fear. My brother was going to war, so I didn’t think anything of it.”
She went downstairs into the garage and put the sticker on the back glass of her SUV. No, it wasn’t on the bumper — like in the song — but she didn’t want to risk it being defaced and wanted it up where people could see it.
Out from a driving incident
In June 2003, Wright announced she was going to Iraq through Stars For Stripes, a nonprofit organization providing celebrity entertainment to internationally deployed U.S. military forces. After returning from Iraq, Wright was driving through Nashville’s ritzy West End when a woman pulled up beside her, displaying her middle finger.
“I’ll admit I’m a bad driver,” Wright said. “I’m always talking on my cell phone or drinking coffee, so I figured she was complaining about my driving.”
At the next stoplight, Wright motioned toward the other motorists that she was sorry. The lady was motioning for Wright to roll her window down and when she did, the woman replied,
“Your war is wrong. You’re a killer just like the rest of them.”
“I’m known to be a mouthy person, but I had no response,” Wright said. “I was shaking and really just couldn’t believe what had happened.”
When she got home, the irony had set in as to what had just transpired, and it angered Wright. So, she began to write. When she was done, she had “Bumper of My S.U.V.”
She just finished what she had to say. Then she simply stored it on her hard drive and never thought about it. In fact, she never planned on recording it or performing it for anyone. She never thought about it anymore after that day.
Then came the recording
Sixteen months later, Wright was preparing to leave for her second tour of Iraq when she happened on a file called “Bumper” on her computer. She had forgotten that she wrote the song, so she burned a copy and packed it with her other stuff bound for Iraq.
Wright played the song for Stars For Stripes president and CEO Judy Seale. While the two were getting Wright perform the song at every show and during autograph sessions, troops were begging her to release the song so American Forces Network could pick it up. She was hesitant at first and said troops started to get irritated. One said:
“With all due respect, ma’am, we don’t care what American radio plays because we don’t get it over here.
That’s a song about freedom and that’s a song about us.”
Wright promised to record the song and send a copy back to AFN-Iraq, which she did.
“This song means a lot to me. I wanted to make sure that the most important people — the troops — found out the true story of this song,” Wright said. “I wanted them to know that this wasn’t some ‘write a song and make money off the war’ deal.”
She comes by her commitment to supporting the troops honestly. As the lyrics say,
See, my brother Chris, he’s been in for more than 14 years now
Our dad was in the Navy during Vietnam
Did his duty then he got out
And my grandpa earned his purple heart on the beach of Normandy
That’s why I’ve got a sticker for the U.S. Marines, on the bumper of my SUV.
Wright donated half of the proceeds from “Bumper of My S.U.V.” to Stars For Stripes.