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Pope Airman sings with Kellie Pickler at Academy of Country Music’s salute to troops

  • Published
  • By Marvin Krause
  • 43rd Airlift Group Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. Baily Zimmerman sang with recording artist Kellie Pickler April 7 during the taping of Academy of Country Music Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops.

This opportunity for Zimmerman highlights her passion for country music during the recent heart-rending life challenges she encountered.

While deployed in Kuwait overseeing local nationals working on the base, Zimmerman spent her free time singing country songs with her colleagues, and writing original lyrics about the hot summer. These moments reminded her of home and helped her forget the heat.

After deployment, she retrained into the Aeromedical Evacuation career field, which provided the opportunity to deploy to San Antonio, Texas, and care for wounded service members as they traveled home for their next level of care.

The same day Baily deployed to San Antonio, her brother, Staff Sgt. Sonny C. Zimmerman, deployed to Afghanistan. On that day, June 3, 2013, a suicide bomber attacked his unit, killing two and wounding several others, including her brother. Though her brother remained in Afghanistan, she had the honor of bringing home three of his colleagues who were injured in the attack.

She and her brother, Staff Sgt. Sonny C. Zimmerman, were close, and she credits him as the reason she enlisted in the Air Force.

A month later, her brother was tragically killed in action. Though devastated, she had promised her brother she would take care of his men, and she knew she needed to continue doing her work.

Through this difficult time in her life, country music provided consolation. The Ottoville, Ohio, native credits songs like "Over You" by Miranda Lambert, "There You'll Be" by Faith Hill and Lee Brice's "I Drive Your Truck" in helping her express her emotions, heal from her loss and continue serving her country.

In honor of Armed Forces Day, the 2 hour concert event, co-hosted by LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell, airs May 20 at 9 p.m. EST on the CBS Television Network.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh was in attendance and thanked ACM, the artists and all who give of themselves and their time to support the troops and their families.