Carrie Underwood Partners With Carnival Cruise Line and Operation Homefront to Support Military Families

Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line/HO
Carrie Underwood, right, reacts to a comment at a news conference Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Jacksonville, Fla. At left is Brig. Gen. John Pray, president and CEO of Operation Homefront. Underwood, Operation Homefront and Carnival Cruise Line announced a partnership to begin a new initiative to support U.S. military families. 

Carrie Underwood is partnering with Carnival Cruise Line and Operation Homefront to support military families through the Honor. Family. Fun. program, she announced on Thursday. The year-long initiative will raise funds for Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to military families, and will culminate Nov. 4, 2016 when Underwood performs a special concert for military families aboard the newest ship, Carnival Vista, when it makes its U.S. debut in New York City in the Port of New York.

"Country music has always been extremely supportive of military families. I'm honored to be working with you guys," Underwood said nodding toward Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy and retired Brigadier General John I. Pray Jr.  at the River Club in Jacksonville, Fla.

Underwood -- whose Storyteller tour kicks off this Saturday night (Jan. 30) in Jacksonville -- hasn't yet been on a Carnival Cruise but said she recently took a tour of the Carnival Breeze. "When we were talking about working together I said, 'I need to see the ship. I need to be on board and see what it's all about,'" she says. "I was so impressed. People were getting on the boat and they were very excited to be there. We got to see all the restaurants, all the activities and all the kid-friendly things. I was just blown away by how much love and effort goes into making the family experience one to remember. I even got to sit in the captain's chair. I look forward to going on a cruise."

Carrie Underwood Mixes Country's Past and Present on 'Storyteller': Album Review

In addition to performing on the Carnival Vista next November, Underwood will be part of the Carnival Live Concert Series in 2017. That performance date and ship will be announced at a later date. Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride and Lady Antebellum are among the country acts who have been part of Carnival Live series since its launch in spring 2014.

 "We just thought it was a great fit," Duffy told Billboard of recruiting Underwood for the Honor.Family.Fun. program. "Carrie is a mother now and we sail more families than any other cruise line. This new ship is so family-friendly and given Carrie's support of the military -- she's been so active -- we thought she was a perfect fit. We're honored that she's part of this, and that we're part of her tour."

In 10 cities along her current Storyteller tour, select military families will visit with Underwood during personal meet and greets. The meetings and the families' stories will be filmed and available for viewing on Carnival.com. Those wishing to support Operation Homefront can click on a "Donate Now" button on Carnival.com/HonorFamilyFun.  There will also be special commemorative dog tags for sale with proceeds going to Operation Homefront. The dog tags will be available at the merch table on Underwood's Storyteller tour and on board Carnival Cruise ships. 

Carrie Underwood Turns Down the Volume On 'Heartbeat'

"I worked for the USO for six years before this job and I have such a profound appreciation for what country music does for our troops and our families," Retired Brigadier General Pray tells Billboard. "It is so powerful and so widely accepted and its so genuine. That's where Carrie comes in because she genuinely cares for our troops and their families. She has a family of her own so she knows exactly what these men and women are doing when they have to deploy and leave families and all the uncertainty that creates. She's the perfect spokesperson for this. Carnival is obviously a major corporation and Carrie Underwood is a mega star. This combination allows people to get a chance to look at the supported charity, which is Operation Homefront, and realize we're all coming together to make a difference in these families' lives."

The launch of Honor.Family.Fun. was also attended by Andrew and Bryanne Friedlander, a Georgia couple who are the 500th family to receive a house from Operation Homefront. Andrew served six years in the U. S. Navy. "It's a blessing from God that we were able to get into this program and were awarded this house," Bryanne tells Billboard. "It's given our family an opportunity to live in a home and not have to move."

Underwood is happy to have a chance to be involved in an initiative that helps military families.  "That's what it's all about is getting to say thank you. I feel so blessed I'm in a genre of music that recognizes that. Growing up listening to country music [there were] so many songs written and sung by artists celebrating the folks [in the military] that allow us to get to do what we do. It's all about saying thank you and not forgetting, not taking that lightly."