JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO -- RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- From growing up in Ada, Okla., to spending Christmas Eve with his father for the last time before his passing, country superstar Blake Shelton shares his favorite, and at times emotional, family holiday memories on this year's "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" radio special.
Produced by Air Force Recruiting Service, the one-hour program features songs from Shelton's 2012 Christmas album "Cheers, It's Christmas." The program also gives listeners an up-close and personal glimpse into the life of the reigning Country Music Association's Entertainer and Male Vocalist of the Year, and of course, the "winningest" coach on NBC-TV's smash hit, "The Voice".
"He was just as cool as can be. He's courteous, gracious and deserving of all the success he's had," said program host Tech. Sgt. Harry Kibbe.
Kibbe interviewed Shelton at Spotland Productions in Nashville, Tenn., the same day the 2013 Country Music Association Awards were announced in September. Shelton received five nominations including their most prestigious honor, Entertainer of the Year along with nods for Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year. The CMA Awards will be broadcast live from Nashville Nov. 6.
About his childhood Christmases, Shelton recalled, "They were the greatest. It almost seems like they didn't happen now. They were so awesome. Everybody was happy. It was the perfect Christmas situation. You learn to appreciate those good times and you go out of your way to recreate that again."
There's one Christmas though that the singer holds near to his heart.
"The last Christmas Eve I spent with my dad was in the hospital room two years ago," Shelton said. "We watched a marathon of 'Dumbest Stuff on Wheels' on the Speed Channel for three hours in his hospital room. I wouldn't trade that Christmas Eve for anything because we got to spend it together."
Shelton's father passed away a few weeks later.
The singer, whose brother was killed in a car accident several years ago, credits his father for encouraging him to write a song about his brother's death. That song, "Over You" co-written with Shelton's wife and Grammy winner, Miranda Lambert, won the 2012 CMA Award for Song of the Year and is included on the "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas."
Although he's won numerous music industry awards for his chart topping hits, Shelton said he's always wanted to record a Christmas album but never got around to doing it until last year.
"Looking back, I'm glad it took this long because I was able to record a Christmas album that included other artist friends. Christmas has always been associated with friends and family and to me it made sense to have them on this record," said Shelton.Shelton enlisted help from his mother, Dorothy Shackleford and wife, Miranda, as well as friends Reba McEntire and Michael Buble. Those duets are also included on the Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas.
Now in its 12th season, "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" got its start 20 years ago as a holiday program called "The Gift."
"It was and still is the Air Force's gift to radio stations and their listeners to show our appreciation for all their support," said Jimmy Spacek, broadcast operations chief at Headquarters AFRS. "Country music fans have always gone out of their way to support military men and women serving around the world."
The Air Force special will be sent to more than 2,000 country stations in the United States and the American Forces Network by mid-November. The public service program, which is designed to help ease the programming load for station program directors during the holidays, includes spot breaks for stations to sell commercial time. According to Spacek, it's estimated the program generates more than $500,000 in Air Force awareness each year.
A list of artists who've appeared on the Air Force holiday shows during the past two decades reads like a virtual who's who of country music. They include Reba McEntire, George Strait, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Toby Keith, Vince Gill, Clint Black, Lee Ann Womack, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.
Participating in this year's program was an easy decision for Shelton, since his father and brother served in the military.
"Both veterans in my life have passed on," he said. "I'm an American citizen and I believe we should all be proud of our military and be proud to do anything we can to step up and help. It's not about politics. It's about what's right."
"From Kathy Mattea, our very first guest on 'The Gift' to Blake Shelton on a 'Red,White and Air Force Blue Christmas,' we've enjoyed 20 great years of support from radio and country music fans all over the world," added Spacek. "And, we look forward to producing more holiday specials to share with them for years to come."