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Country singer remembers story of 'Have You Forgotten?'

By Simon Umlauf
CNN Headline News

Worley, left, visiting with troops in Kabul, Afghanistan. Worley was one of the first civilians to be allowed into the war zone on a USO tour during over the Christmas holidays.

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(CNN) -- What country singer Darryl Worley experienced in Afghanistan would affect his life forever.

In the United States, his fans were carefree: singing, dancing and toasting a night on the town. But his fans in Afghanistan and Kuwait -- stationed on the front line of the war on terrorism -- had rifles slung over their shoulders.

When Worley came home in December from a USO tour in Kuwait and Afghanistan, he was on a mission. He had to tell someone about the young soldiers standing guard in Afghanistan and remind Americans that men and women overseas are laying their lives on the line, not only for the freedom of U.S. citizens but also for the freedom of the international community.

"It's amazing what the soldiers are doing to help the Afghan people," Worley said. "They're carrying food up into the mountains to orphanages, rebuilding orphanages, digging wells, helping them find decent water supplies.

"And at the same time, they got rebels coming out of the caves in the Pakistan border firing missiles at them. It takes some intense dedication. [The USO tour] was probably the best thing I'd ever done," the musician said in a thick Tennessee drawl. "I came home with a intense faith in our country, in our military, especially our military. I see those soldiers in a total different way."

After being home a few weeks and growing discouraged by the rumble of war protests, the dam broke.

"Have You Forgotten?" is the lead single and title track from Worley's new album due out May 20.

"My co-writer and myself were talking about the whole thing, and he just stood up and said, 'It makes you want to just look these people in the eye and say, 'Have you forgotten?'" Worley said. "I got chills all over my body because I knew that was the title of the song that we were going to write that day."

Since that moment, "Have You Forgotten?" has become one song that many people will remember. Worley's single strikes an emotional chord with listeners, reminding them of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and suggesting a link between al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "Forgotten" has lit up request lines across the country and debuted at No. 41 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

But the climb up the charts hasn't been a total hay ride. Worley's patriotic tune has been labeled "pro-war," and that leaves some radio programmers reluctant to play it now that the anti-war movement is gaining momentum.

One top country radio station, KZLA in Los Angeles, California, posted a poll on its Web site for listeners to vote on whether the song should be played or not, but for the past two weeks, over 89 percent of listeners who took the poll have voted to keep "Forgotten" on the air.

Worley said he has gotten a couple of calls and a couple of letters protesting his song, and one that "trashed" him pretty good, but he shrugs it off, saying, "That's part of the American way."

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