Looking for a heartwarming story to usher in the weekend? It's hard to top this one, which involves a celebrity using social media for a good cause, rather than self-promotion.
Earlier this week at a Maine-area show, Brad Paisley noticed a pair of women in the crowd, both holding up cardboard cutouts of human figures. As it turned out, the cutouts were "Flat Daddies" — life-size photos of deployed service members who are currently serving overseas.
These giant photos are often used to ease separation anxiety in children whose military parents are gone for extended periods of time — but in this case, they were offering comfort to a wife and girlfriend, respectively, who miss the men in their lives.
Paisley spotted the cutouts, pulled them up on stage, signed them, and handed them back to the delighted fans. However, he didn't get the names of either the women or their deployed soldiers.
After the show, however, he had an idea. Why not use Twitter to track down the soldiers?
Anybody get a better shot from the front of the signs with the soldiers on em? Mine's blurry and I'd love to know their names.— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) June 16, 2014
It didn't take long before Paisley got his answer!
This is unreal. You know these 2 posters of soldiers from Bangor that I was wanting to find...? pic.twitter.com/6OypU2D3WA— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) June 16, 2014
A local newspaper identified the men as Sgt. Ryan Kelly and Sgt. Dana Gross, and the fans holding up their likenesses as Kelly's wife, Amanda, and Gross's girlfriend, Erin Donnell. Paisley not only reached out to them but also invited them to one of his shows later this summer in Boston once they return from their deployment.
And on a great side note — Sgt. Kelly had actually seen Brad’s surprise Memorial Day show a few weeks ago in Afghanistan, when he traveled there with President Obama.
Crazy to play for the soldiers 2weeks ago in Afg. & then their significant others here at home. Sgt.Kelly &Sgt.Gross pic.twitter.com/5W2J4ItV1y— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) June 16, 2014
"They're more than faces on a poster to me. These are each individuals, and it's a really huge reminder that these guys over there have lives back here," Paisley said afterward. "When you see the person who loves them most, it just strikes you. I wanted to know their names and who they are."
It's no surprise that Paisley made such an effort to reach out in this manner, as he's well-known for being a staunch and longtime supporter of our U.S. troops. In fact, earlier this month, he made headlines for mocking controversial church group Westboro Baptist — specifically for the fact that the church often protests at military funerals as a show of opposition to government policies.