On the eve of James’ Tribute to the Armed Forces 2017 Country Jam, which will be held Saturday at the Roanoke Rapids Theatre, he and Gurry embarked on a fishing trip on the Roanoke River, as part of Gurry’s continued coverage of the singer’s plans to build a 15,000-square-foot retreat in Southampton County for veterans.
The show, James, a Southeast Tidewater native, said is all part of the plan. “Country music and a tribute to the armed forces, it doesn’t get any better than that. Basically we put this show together for the city of Roanoke Rapids and Halifax Tourism to bring awareness and give back to the community and to veterans and active duty military.”
It is also to bring awareness of the retreat he plans to build once the funding is in place.
It will be a log home retreat for veterans to come and enjoy the outdoors, James said. “Just to get away with like minded people and have some normalcy. We write a lot of music that makes a difference in people’s lives. An artist paints with the paintbrush, the songwriter paints with a pen. To be able to give and turn words into music, it’s healing, it can turn a bad day into a good day, it’ll put a smile on your face. To be able to have songs that go along with what we’re doing is, for me, it’s a crossroads in my life and that crossroads is to make a difference.”
Many companies have got behind the retreat project, he said. Monsanto and Jasper Engines are just a few, along with Honest Abe Log Homes, which has designed the facility. “People are getting involved in this thing right now. It’s exciting times.”
James doesn’t see stopping once the Southampton project is complete. “Our goal over the next 10 years is to build three more in key locations across the United States.”
While James took a path which led to music, five of his uncles served and his brother is a Vietnam veteran. “Music took me down the road where I am today so I’m still being able to serve. I love this country we live in. It’s the greatest country in the world. There’s a lot of brave men and women who’ve fallen down and given their life. Freedom doesn’t come free.”
James said Gurry is filming every aspect of the project from start to finish.
A day for veterans
Roanoke Rapids Parks and Recreation Director John Simeon said while the show doesn’t start until 7 p.m., the doors of the venue will be open at noon. “The Roanoke Valley Veterans Museum has a just absolutely fantastic display set up so we hope veterans will come in and go through the museum and share their stories have a good fellowship time with each other, catch up on what they’ve been doing.”
He said he believes the museum displays will provide them a place to mingle “and have a nice time and be recognized before the show.
Iraq war veteran Mikele Buck opens the show and will be followed by the Moonshine Band before James takes the stage.
Forging a friendship
Gurry and James first met at Dover Downs, where Gurry was on the project management team for an expansion there and James was to perform. “The GM got us all together one night and we’ve been best friends ever since. We just stayed up to 2-3 in the morning. I’m an American. I don’t care who’s in office, none of that matters to me, I’m in the best country you could ever be in your life This doesn’t happen anywhere in the world, the common ground between him and I was that right off the bat. My dad was in the navy, his sister was in the Marine Corps in the 40s, my son is in pararescue in the Air Force. We just started sharing stories so we’re just surrounded by that save the country type attitude.”
With five Emmy’s under his belt for his show American Builder, Gurry said he told James of the people he knows, told him he would donate some cameras and meet him anywhere. “Let’s get some media going, let’s try to work this together, that’s the start of it, then we just became friends.”
Gurry plans to be the project manager for the retreat and his cameras will follow the progress from shovel to roof as well as beyond. “We’ll be down here as it grows. He’s hoping to put this thing in a few different parts of the country. We’re happy to be part of the team, we bring a lot of media help. I’m psyched to be part of it.”