Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.
Today, one startling statistic to hear is that every day, 22 American veterans commit suicide. Country music singer and military veteran, Jared Ashley, hopes to change that statistic with his non-profit, Flight Deck Veterans Group, as well as a special charity event in Wilmington, Ohio. Operation Cherrybend: A Hero’s Hunt is a pheasant hunt and concert that honors military veterans. The event happens October 7-10, 2015, and features a concert by John Michael Montgomery and Jared Ashley.
Operation Cherrybend: A Hero’s Hunt was created a few years ago. According to Jared Ashley, “I got invited to come up to Wilmington to participate in another charity event. I had the opportunity to meet the Ellis family and we hit it off pretty quick. When the Flight Deck Veterans Group, which is a non-profit organization that I founded, was searching an event to do, it was a great fit to work with Beth and her family. They also have a passion for the military, our Veterans, and the outdoors. So I grabbed a couple of singer-songwriters, as well as some wounded Veterans, and took them to Cherrybend, hunting birds, singing songs, and just hanging out in the nature of brotherhood.”
On Thursday and Friday of the 3 day event, veterans and songwriters go out on a hunt and hang out at the hunting lodge on Cherrybend Pheasant Farm. Then Friday night, the concert performance at Murphy Theatre in Wilmington with John Michael Montgomery and Jared Ashley will help raise funds benefiting wounded veterans.
According to Jared, “John Michael Montgomery has had an amazing career. What better artist could we have for this event than John Michael Montgomery, who has the most support for our Veterans over the years?”
One of the heroes that have been chosen in the past was Josh Sams. According to Jared, “Josh Sams is from Wilmington and was born there. Homes for Our Heroes just built him a handicapped accessible home. The community came together to support him and to make this an amazing experience for him and his family. Josh is a double amputee as he stepped on an IED overseas.”
Jared said that they want to spread awareness within the community. The veterans that are chosen are around 35 years and younger, most having served in the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. Right now, 5 Veterans are chosen, but plans to expand have been discussed with the help of more sponsors and volunteers.
“It’s hard to choose people that are right for this event,” Jared Ashley reflected. “It not only explores the songwriter side of things, but I have to hand picked them. It takes a special kind of human being to interact with this group because it is the outdoors. I literally handpick the songwriters and veterans because I want everybody to gel and everybody to leave there almost family. That’s the idea – I want the same people come back every year, almost like a family reunion.”
Top Flight Veterans Group is currently planning many more events to help vets who are struggling, and hopes to broaden its endeavors through scholarships, a massive active military care package program, events targeting PTSD awareness and education, Naval preservation efforts, and much more. Qualified veterans interested in joining the Flight Deck Veterans Group can join via the group’s website. Members will enjoy exclusive discounts, participation in special events, and the opportunity to make history as well. Contributions are always welcomed and appreciated to help our mission. For more information please visit FDVG.org. U.S. Navy Flight Deck Veterans Group, PO Box 1552, Antioch TN, 37011.
Be sure to check out more on the Flight Deck Veterans Group by visiting www.fdvg.org. For more information on Jared Ashley, be sure to check out www.jaredashley.com.