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updated: 7/17/2013 6:21 AM

Country musician to headline benefit concert at Wheaton's Cantigny

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  • Country musician Ronnie Dunn will perform at the eighth annual Rockin' for the Troops at Wheaton's Cantigny Park on July 20.

      Country musician Ronnie Dunn will perform at the eighth annual Rockin' for the Troops at Wheaton's Cantigny Park on July 20.
    Associated Press

  • Country musician Ronnie Dunn is performing at the eighth annual Rockin' For the Troops to help veterans find employment. The concert is Saturday, July 20, at Wheaton's Cantigny Park.

      Country musician Ronnie Dunn is performing at the eighth annual Rockin' For the Troops to help veterans find employment. The concert is Saturday, July 20, at Wheaton's Cantigny Park.
    Associated Press

  • Country music star Ronnie Dunn will be the featured performer at Saturday's Rockin' for the Troops concert at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

      Country music star Ronnie Dunn will be the featured performer at Saturday's Rockin' for the Troops concert at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
    Associated Press

  • Video: "Cost of Livin'" - Ronnie Dunn

 
By Riley Simpson
rsimpson@dailyherald.com

To Ronnie Dunn, it's an opportunity to give back.

The country music performer will perform Saturday, July 20, at the eighth annual Rockin' for the Troops concert at Wheaton's Cantigny Park.

"It's a good, patriotic thing to do," said Dunn, 60.

He replaces Lt. Dan Band's Gary Sinise, the longtime face of the event, as the headliner. The Voices, Arra and the Kimo Williams Band also will perform at the event, which runs from noon to 11 p.m.

Operation Support Our Troops-America sponsors the concert and raises money for programs such as Comfort Care Packages and Leap of Faith, which help returning veterans find employment.

Dunn said the poor economy limits the availability of jobs for veterans.

His song "Cost of Livin'" -- which earned two Grammy Award nominations -- describes a veteran seeking work and the issues he faces returning to civilian life.

Along with body and brain injuries -- PTSD, for example -- Dunn said integration back into a normal life can be difficult for veterans, who go from a dangerous war environment to the suburbs.

"(It's) the social event of guys being brought back into society," Dunn said. "I imagine (the economy), combined with the issues of decompression from a war environment, probably make the stress factor even higher."

OSOT-America has raised about $2.5 million during the past eight years. Dunn also helped raise $390,000 for scholarships for children whose parents died serving the intelligence community.

Rockin' For the Troops is Dunn's second benefit concert of the summer. He played alongside country stars Garth Brooks and Toby Keith July 6 to raise money for the victims of the tornadoes that struck Oklahoma earlier this year.

The theme of this year's Rockin' For the Troops is "Only In America," celebrating OSOT-America's 10-year anniversary. Dunn said he relates to the theme because he and former collaborator Kix Brooks performed a song of the same title.

It praises the American dream, something Dunn hopes U.S. troops overseas can achieve.

"Maybe in the next year or two, we'll have the option to do (the concert) when the troops aren't in harm's way," Dunn said.

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