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A Chat With Kellie Pickler

After five USO tours, country cutie Kellie Pickler brings her love for the troops back from the Middle East and straight to our pages.

Check out Kellie's gallery!

In 2006 a small-town girl from North Carolina named Kellie Pickler found fame on American Idol’s fifth season, charming even grumpy Simon. Six years later Kellie’s got three albums, tons of awards, and a freshman spot on Maxim’s 2012 Hot 100 under her sexy belt. Even so, none of these trump Kellie’s most admirable accomplishment: her unwavering support for America’s troops. This past Memorial Day marked her fifth tour with the USO, and though the boys overseas were sad to see her leave, we think these pictures just might cheer them up.

You recently came back from your fifth USO tour. What first inspired you to get involved?
I come from a military family. My grandfather is a retired Marine, and I’ve always had a great deal of respect for anyone who serves our country. It really does take someone special to sacrifice everything. I don’t mean just their lives, either. There are men who are sacrificing the chance to hold their newborn baby!

Do people ever mistake you for military?
I go through the airport with the official military travel backpacks, and people will come up and say, “Thank you for your service.” I’m like, “Oh, no. Don’t let these bags fool you. I’m just a big supporter!” I know they’re either going, “She’s in the service?” or “Man, we’re fucked.”

You’ve sure been overseas a lot. Do you have any favorite USO memories?
This past trip we were at Camp Spann in Afghanistan, and there’s a little chapel there. It’s nothing fancy, but it has a lot of love, and my whole band and I stayed up one night until 3 a.m., picking with the soldiers who played guitar. We had a picking party.

A picking party?
It’s kind of like a songwriter round, and people jump up onstage, pick and play whatever they want, and sing their hearts out. It was really cool to do that in a little chapel in Afghanistan.

Sounds like you really bring the party! For those of us who can’t use our star power to support the troops in person, how do you suggest we do our part?
USO.org has different ways that you can volunteer and help. It’s a nonprofit, so it’s funded by people donating money for us to take entertainment there and for care packages at Christmas. They’re not staying in a nice facility. It’s a shithole, you know? And to have a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree? It’s the biggest deal.

Are you dealing with those accommodations as well? What are they like for you?
You really forget about your surroundings. When I look back at pictures, I’m like, “Wow. That was a bit of a dump.” When we went to Iraq, we stayed in one of Saddam’s palaces. It was kind of creepy. If those walls could talk, there’s no telling what stories they’d tell. It’s nicer than a tent, but in some ways a tent might be better, you know?

You recently brought a wounded Marine, Sgt. Sean DeBevoise, to the CMT Awards in lieu of your husband. Would you consider more military dates in the future?
Sure! It’s all I can do to get my husband to sit through one of those things, so it’s a win-win.

Speaking of country, is that all you listen to?
Honestly? Marilyn Manson. “The Dope Show,” “The Beautiful People.” My friends are like, “Pickler? Where’d you go? Come back to us!”

You’re a huge sports nut and, clearly, a patriot. Do you ever sing the national anthem at sporting events?
I hate doing the anthem!

Really?!
I love the anthem if someone else is singing it, but doing it myself gives me anxiety! I feel like people are waiting for you to mess up! I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again, I’m sure, but I’d rather show my patriotism by going to Afghanistan.

Did you handle any artillery while there?
Oh, my gosh, we shot everything: M16s, .50- caliber grenade launchers! I shot all the guns on the Black Hawks. Hundreds of bullets come out at a time. It’s crazy.

Sounds like it! Could you tell us about your tattoos? You’ve got a few.
My grandmother would be mortified if she knew I had these. She’s passed away now, but she would say, “Tattoos are the devil!” So my first tattoo, of course, was my grandma’s name. I also have stars on my left arm for my USO tours, but I’m missing two.

Do you have any tips for our readers on dating a small-town girl? Can they be trouble?
We might be, but we can also con our way out of it. A country girl can talk her way out of a ticket. Not that I’ve ever been pulled over…

Never?
My grandpa got me a radar detector for Christmas, so not anymore!