Composition, radio play, and first performances
In December 2002, Worley performed for United States soldiers in Afghanistan and Kuwait. Worley debuted the song at the Grand Ole Opry during performances on January 10 and 11, 2003. After Worley's Grand Ole Opry performance, a live recording was made available online, followed later by a studio recording. The song quickly grew in popularity, and the single was widely requested by country radio listeners before it was commercially available. In the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq, some stations were hesitant to play the song because of its perceived pro-war message, but by March 3, 2003 it had been played by 128 of the 150 country stations that report to Billboard.
Worley appeared on The Today Show on February 28, 2003, and performed the song on Lou Dobbs Moneyline on March 11, 2003. Worley performed to a standing ovation at the CMT Annual "Flameworthy Music Awards" on April 7, 2003.:141 On April 16 of that year he was introduced by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld before performing the song at the Pentagon.:142 A report from the American Forces Press Service said the performance brought tears to Rumsfeld's eyes.