This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar - We Are The Mighty
MUSIC

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar

Craig Morgan Greer is a former fire support specialist who served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions before becoming a country music star with seven songs that reached Billboard’s Top 10 most-played country tracks. His top hit, “That’s What I Love About Sundays,” spent six weeks at number 1.


This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Craig Morgan performs on Crete, an island in Greece, during a USO tour. (Photo: Steve Manuel, USO)

The veteran, who performs under the name Craig Morgan, is releasing a new album but still finds plenty of time to go on USO tours and stop by military bases to visit troops, an activity he says is near and dear to his heart. I mean, who doesn’t like country music? 

The tours can feel strange for him though, since he’s treated like a VIP while he still thinks of himself as a soldier. This is especially true when he visits his former duty stations like Fort Campbell or Fort Bragg.

“It’s super odd, even still to this day, many years later,” he told WATM. “I’m not a VIP, I’m a soldier. It’s emotional. I mean, I had children born on both of those bases.”

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Craig Morgan Greer while serving in Korea. (Photo courtesy Craig Morgan)

While Morgan is very proud of his veteran status and open about it, he’s surprised that many of his fans and peers in the industry don’t know that he served. His new album’s title track, “A Whole Lot More To Me,” is partially about the fact that he wasn’t always a performer.

“I find it amazing that having been in the music industry for this long, there are still people who don’t know I was in the military,” he said. “That’s crazy to me. That’s what this record is about. There’s a whole lot more to me than country music and pickup trucks.”

The music video for a new song on the album even includes shots of his time in uniform as well as video of Morgan visiting troops and conducting activities, like PT, with them.

While the new album contains direct references to Craig Morgan’s time in the military, he says that most of his songs have ties to the service.

“The music always reflects back, at some point for me, to my experiences in my life, and since most of my life was in the military, they all relate back to it.”

One standout hit has a surprise military connection. “Redneck Yacht Club,” a 2005 song about a bunch of country boys taking their boats onto the lake for a party, is tied to his time slipping away from the post during downtime in the Army.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Craig Morgan sings to a group of service members during a USO tour on Okinawa, Japan. (Photo: Steve Manuel, USO)

“I remember being at Fort Bragg and going to the lake or to Louisiana to get on the water,” he said.

Morgan, who spent over six years in the Reserves after serving for nearly 10 on active duty, says that he still misses the military from time-to-time, especially after USO tours.

“When I come home I pout around a little bit because I feel like I should be back in the Army,” he said.

Craig Morgan’s new album is available for pre-order on his website. It comes out on Jun. 3 nationwide.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Jericho Hill

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Jericho Hill is a band created by Army veteran Steve Schneider and Navy corpsman McClain Potter. They began writing music together in 2012 while studying at Shoreline Community College just north of Seattle, bonding over their military experiences.


This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
From left to right: Steve Schneider (U.S. Army), McClain Potter (U.S. Navy).

In 2014, Steve and McClain invited friends to play with them, including singer Malcolm Williams, drummer Adam Birchman, and bassist Nick Skinnell, officially creating Jericho Hill, a reference from “The Dark Tower,” a book McClain read during deployment. The band is united by the military, whether they themselves wore the uniform or a family member.

They found that music was not only healing for them, but a way to share stories with others. The military was a strong influencer for their music, which has evolved to bring awareness to issues like suicide, trauma, and depression.

One of the traditions of Jericho Hill is to play an as-yet unrecorded song “Great Day to be Alive” during their shows as a tribute to the friends they have lost. They also work hard to connect with other veterans and musicians, demonstrating how music can help vets readjust to civilian life.

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out the new hard rock EP from the vets of Jericho Hill

Jericho Hill is a band created by Army veteran Steve Schneider and Navy corpsman McClain Potter. They began writing music together in 2012 while attending college, bonding over their military experiences.


True to form, they’ve just released a new EP that touches on themes of anger, mental health, and losing comrades and loved ones.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Jericho Hill in Nashville, Tennessee, recording a track for Mission: Music, a music competition for veterans and their families. Jericho Hill made it to the finals after a nation-wide search. (Image courtesy of USAA and We Are The Mighty)

Loss comes up a lot for Jericho Hill — as it does for many veterans. One of their traditions during their shows is to dedicate a song to the fallen.

The EP, named Dvda@ the BB, contains three songs that demonstrate their diversity within the hard rock genre:

Devil in Disguise shows a bit of attitude with a taunting tempo and lyrics like “I’m from the land of the wicked ones, and I’ve come out to play.”

The second track, Fuel to the Fire, amps up the intensity both in instrumentals and tone: “You’re only adding fuel to the fire. Tonight we light the funeral pyre.”

Finally, there’s Sins of the Son, a mellow piece that starts with a confession and continues with questions: “What do you get out of running away? I don’t know.”

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Jericho Hill vets from left to right: Steve Schneider (U.S. Army), McClain Potter (U.S. Navy).

Jericho Hill is currently hustling, playing gigs in the Pacific Northwest, and planning their full album. Check them out on Facebook and let them know what you think of their new tracks.

Speaking of which, the EP is on Spotify (or other streaming services like iTunes, YouTube, and Pandora). We’ve also embedded it right here for you, because we’re cool like that:

MUSIC

The unexpected history of the hilarious ‘Spirit of 76’ meme

The historic piece of art that’s featured in the hilarious meme showcasing three marching Revolutionary War musicians has a long, long history. While it might not date as far back as the Revolutionary War, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to learn it was inspired by and modeled after drunken American war veterans.


This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar

Ohioan Archibald Willard was a Civil War veteran who enlisted with the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, the 86th saw action at the Battle of the Cumberland Gap and headed off Confederate General John Hunt Morgan as he made the furthest incursion northward during the war, but it only lost 37 men total — all due to disease. Willard began to draw pictures of the things he saw as he moved with the unit. He and a business partner began to finish and sell the drawings throughout the war.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar

Archibald Willard, Civil War veteran and creator of “The Spirit of ’76.”

Before moving back to Cleveland, Willard studied art in New York City. He stayed for a number of years, but it was back in his native Ohio that Willard was inspired to paint a humorous picture he called, “Yankee Doodle.” It was the first incarnation of what would become his most famous and celebrated work, with three Revolutionary War musicians marching in tune to their martial music. But this first pass was less of a serious work and more of a funny comic-book painting.

The original featured three natives of Wellington, Ohio — all slightly intoxicated veterans of the War of 1812 — goofing around and creating mock battles with instruments in the town square. He also used Wellingtonians as models to paint the patriots seen in the famous painting. These models included his father, the Reverend Samuel Willard, fellow Civil War veteran Hugh Mosher as the fife player, and a local named Henry Devereaux, a military academy cadet and the son of a local railroad president, as the drummer boy.


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Willard drew the original as a comic scene, but a friend who saw his sketch suggested that Willard take it a little more seriously, perhaps draw it up with a patriotic theme. The idea intrigued Willard because it was outside the realm of anything he’d ever done before. He preferred to paint landscapes and comical scenes of everyday life. Thinking back to old stories his grandfather would tell him about fighting in the American Revolution, Willard created an eight-by-ten foot masterpiece, re-titled “The Spirit of ’76.”

“The Spirit of ’76” first went on display in 1876 as part of a celebration of the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Willard went on to paint several different versions of the painting but there were none so iconic or reproduced in American culture than the original. In the years following the Civil War, years characterized by mixed feelings, resentment, and Reconstruction, “The Spirit of ’76” was a work of art that evoked a shared sense of national unity.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar

And lived on in many different iterations.

After the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, the original painting was sold to General John H. Devereux, father of the drummer boy in the painting, who took it to his home in Marblehead, Mass. where it remains on display to this day. The drum used by the younger Devereux and Hugh Mosher’s fife can be seen in the Spirit of ’76 Museum in Wellington, Ohio.

Intel

This man honors the military by playing ‘Taps’ for his neighbors every day

Every time Don Brittain plays “Taps” at sunset his neighbors stand at attention.


One resident told CBSN, “When you hear the first note, everything in our house comes to a complete halt.”

Tacoma residents have made it part of their daily ritual. For Brittain, it’s his way of showing appreciation for our military.

“I want to support our guys who are over there fighting,” Brittain told CBSN. “I had polio as a kid, so I couldn’t serve. I would have served in a heartbeat.”

Watch Brittain move his neighbors with his beautiful rendition of “Taps”:

NOW: This American comedy legend defused land mines in World WAR II

OR: 94-year-old who served behind Nazi lines reveals the most terrifying thing he experienced

MUSIC

This is how US Presidents almost got to choose their own entrance music

A Marine Corps band first played “Hail to the Chief” for Andrew Jackson as he walked off on his way to Ohio. It earned three cheers from his adoring crowd. After President John Tyler adopted it for his 1841-1845 term in office, the tradition stuck and American Presidents have been associated with the song ever since.


But before that, they tried to choose a personal theme song. Thanks, John Tyler.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Admit that you don’t know what John Tyler looks like.

George Washington almost had “Hail, Columbia” as his theme, with lyrics like “Let Washington’s great name ring through the world to loud applause.” And Jefferson tried to get “Jefferson and Liberty” as his theme song, with lyrics like “But join with heart and soul and voice, for Jefferson and Liberty!”

Some Presidents had special songs written for their campaigns that would have worked as an entrance theme, like Warren Harding’s “Harding, You’re the Man For Us,” Richard Nixon’s “Nixon Now,” Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can,” and the ill-advised “Get On the Raft With Taft.”

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
He’s fat. That’s the joke.

In the January-February 2017 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Abigail Tucker detailed the history of the song and how it came to be played for the President of the United States. In the early days of our nation, the general population wasn’t too fond of the British. So when a theatrical version of the 1810 poem “Lady of the Lake” premiered in Philadelphia, it really caught on.

The show was an epic historical story about the life of an anti-British elite who is destined for greatness but whose life is tragically cut short by a power hungry villain. The stage show was a musical production that American audience immediately fell in love with and soon the whole country was raving about the show and its songs. So it was basically the “Hamilton” of the 1800s.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Which sucks for the real Alexander Hamilton. You’d think he’d at least be considered, but Lin Manuel-Miranda is *so* talented.

After the War of 1812, anti-British sentiment was still riding high and even though “Lady of the Lake” was about an anti-British Scotsman it hardly mattered to Americans. He was an awesome character and that was enough. The lyrics were changed a number of times, however. Poetic olive trees eventually replaced Scottish pines and the hero of the song stopped murdering British people.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
I bet May dies fighting

Eventually, people completely forgot the official lyrics of the song.

Today the Defense Department mandates that “Hail to the Chief” only be played by the Marine Corps band in B-flat major and only for a sitting President in a “stately context” and at Presidential funerals.

MUSIC

Watch this Army NCO absolutely slay ‘bumblebee’ on the trombone

The trombone is an interesting instrument. No, wait! Don’t click away! Seriously, we’re building to a point about the military.


Basically, playing music on the trombone requires two manipulations to produce different notes and patterns.

First, changing the position of the slide. The musician moves their arm closer or further from their body, lengthening or shortening the instrument and producing a different pitch.

Almost more important for producing the proper sounds, though, is how the musician changes the tightness of his or her lips.

Trombone players are actually buzzing into the instrument, not just blowing, and can change the note by tightening or loosening their lips while buzzing (so to speak…).

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Both the nerd and the soldier-nerd in this photo have some amazingly talented mouths, is what we’re saying. (U.S. Army Photo by Cpl. Timothy Yao)

Neither method is a particularly quick way to change notes when compared to the quick fingerwork of a flute, trumpet, or violin.

That’s what made it so surprising to watch Army band member Sgt. 1st Class Carmen Russo absolutely slay “The Flight of the Bumblebee” three times in a row, each time faster than the last (and played on successively smaller trombones).

“The Flight of the Bumblebee” is a fast-paced, technically challenging song when played at normal speeds on an instrument like the trumpet or flute, making the staff sergeant’s success at high speeds on the trombone all the more impressive.

Russo filmed this performance in 2013 before his promotion to sergeant first class.

There are no GIFs or screengrabs that can properly demonstrate what is going on here, so you’ll just have to watch the video. You can jump ahead to 4:10 if you only want to watch the fastest rendition.

MUSIC

7 Air Force song facts that will make you want to go off into the wild blue yonder

Informally referred to as “The Air Force Song,” the composition “U.S. Air Force” is a work of lyrical beauty and musical majesty — and it’s the one thing that can melt this cold, dark, veteran heart of mine.


 

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Literally the enthusiasm with which I sing this song. Every time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana D. Hill)

Here are some fun facts about it:

1. It originated because of a competition, per Brig. Gen. Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold’s suggestion

Liberty magazine sponsored a musical contest for a spirited composition to become the official Army Air Corps song. Over 700 scores were submitted, but the judging committee (consisting of military spouses) selected Robert MacArthur Crawford’s as the winner.

2. The legendary Irving Berlin submitted an entry

Patriotic composer and lyricist Irving Berlin submitted an entry after flying in a B-1B bomber for creative inspiration. His wasn’t selected, but his work was later pieced into Moss Hart’s Broadway show “Winged Victory,” which helped raise funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund during World War II.   

Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Airpower is sexy and you know it. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

3. Crawford himself first debuted it

The song was first introduced at the Cleveland Air Races on Sept. 2, 1939, and was performed by Crawford himself.

4. It has evolved along with the Air Force

The U.S. Air Force wouldn’t become its own branch until 1947. At that time, “U.S Air Force” replaced “Army Air Corps” in the lyrics. You can see the full lyrics with original changes below.

5. It made “yonder” happen

Crawford’s use of the word “yonder” prompted the Oxford English Dictionary to expand the word’s definition to include “the far and trackless distance.”

6. It went to the moon on Apollo 15

Air Force Colonel David R. Scott and Lieutenant Colonel James B. Irwin carried the original first page of Crawford’s score to the moon on July 30, 1971.

7. It was a helluva rebel

For original radio and television versions, the scandalous use of  “helluva” was stricken and “terrible” was substituted instead.

SAGEmovieproductions | YouTube

Here are the original and current lyrics. The words in brackets are shouted with gusto and the italicized words replace the parenthesized words of the 1939 original:

Verse 1 (main melody)

Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun;

Here they come, zooming to meet our thunder, at ’em, boys, give’er the gun! [give’er the gun, hey (now)!]

Down we dive, spouting our flame from under, off with (on) one helleva roar (course),

We live in fame or go down in flame, hey! Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

Verse 2 (main melody)

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder, sent it high into the blue;

Hands of men blasted the world asunder; How they lived, God only knew, hey! [God only new, then!]

Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer, gave us (our) wings, ever to soar (every resource)!

With scouts (jets) before and Bombers (Bombs) galore, Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

Verse 3 (bridge)

Here’s a toast to the host of those who love the vastness of the sky,

To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly,

We drink to those who gave their all of old:

Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.

A toast to the host of the men we boast, the US Air Force (Army Air Corps). ZOOM.

Verse 4 (main melody)

Off we go into the wild sky yonder, Keep the wings level and true;

If you’d live to be a gray haired wonder, keep the nose out of the blue [out of the blue, hey!].

Flying men, guarding our nation’s borders, we’ll be there followed by more (ever on course)!

In each echelon, we carry on, Hey! Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

MUSIC

These two Grammy nominees wrote a Christmas song for the military

Christmas can be a special time of the year, but for those troops who have deployed, it’s a very bittersweet time. Their families also have those same bittersweet feelings. The reason why is obvious: During a holiday where families gather, the military stands watch. Whether deployed overseas or stationed far from home, military members are often separated from their families during the holidays.


Grammy nominees John Ondrasik, who goes by the stage name Five for Fighting, and pianist Jim Brickman teamed up to write a Christmas song for the troops after witnessing troops and their families feel those raw emotions. The two singers had been involved with Operation Care Package and the USO, and the product of their collaboration is “Christmas Where You Are,” which is available on iTunes.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar

“The holidays can be an especially hard time for our troops and their families,” Ondrasik and Brickman said in a release, “‘Christmas Where You Are’ is a thank you and reminder to soldiers that we are with them in heart and spirit, wherever they stand, in service and sacrifice to our nation. We hope that no matter where these brave men and women are stationed, the warmth and love of family transcends the miles. We want them to know that a grateful nation holds them close to our hearts.”

Grammy nominee Ondrasik, a philanthropist and singer-songwriter, has sold over three million records. He has released six albums. Brickman, a two-time Grammy nominee and Dove Award winner, has 21 Number One albums. “Christmas Where You Are” will also be featured on Brickman’s latest album, A Joyful Christmas, which is dropping on Nov. 10.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar Grammy nominees John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting (right) and Jim Brickman. (Photo by Duston Todd/BYU TV)

Some of the proceeds of the song will go to the Gary Sinise Foundation, as well as What Kind Of World Do You Want, an initiative Ondrasik created which helps raise funds for Augie’s Quest, Autism Speaks, Fisher House Foundation, Save the Children and Operation Homefront.

Articles

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music

Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”


A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.

He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.

We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.

“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”

We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.

Check out his interview here, and then hit up the Battle Mix for your own dose of inspiration:

(We Are The Mighty | YouTube)

The Grey Battle Mix (you’re welcome):

MUSIC

7 epic songs that prove ‘Call of Duty’ knows how to lay down tracks

Sometimes you want music that’ll get you pumped up. Sometimes you just want to get over your (good for nothing) ex.


But sometimes you just need sweeping sounds to tune out the world. Maybe you’re running. Maybe you’re sitting at your desk getting some work done. Whatever it is, the Call Sign Ronin playlist is here for you.

And most of these epic songs are from video games. Because it’s a new (virtual reality) world, friends.

Here are some of our favorites:

1. Opening Titles — Hans Zimmer | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Zimmer is king when it comes to sweeping scores, and he did not hold back with the COD: MW2 soundtrack. It starts the sixth installment of Call of Duty off with the perfect blend of ambiance and suspense.

2. Extraction Point — Hans Zimmer | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

This song jumps right into the action. COD: MW2 is about taking an Afghanistan city back from insurgents and the intensity is clear in this song.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Nothing takes back Afghan cities like a bunch of teens and their friends.

3. Breach — Hans Zimmer | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

“Breach” slows things down a bit, a necessary reprieve.

4. Guerrilla Tactics — Hans Zimmer | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Our final pick from this album, “Guerrilla Tactics” picks up the pace and introduces non-traditional instruments to give you a feel for the action that comes with a mission.

5. Call of Duty: MW3 — Brian Tyler

This one feels like it’s from a scene that may or may not make your eyes mist up. It’s okay. Just lean into it.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Tracer fire brings tears to my eyes, too.

6. Advanced Soldier Overture — Harry Gregson-Williams | Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

This one has a build to it. Need to get motivated? Start here.

7. Draconian Dream — Audiomachine | Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

This one is aptly named: it sounds mechanical and other-worldly. And it’s awesome.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Coastie and musician won the chance of a lifetime

U.S. Coast Guardsman Bobby “Blackhat” Walters is the epitome of “cool cat.”


He’s a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s also the winner of the 2017 Mission: Music competition that found incredible musicians from the military community, sent them to Nashville for a professional video shoot at the iconic Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios, then introduced them America, who voted for which artist would take the stage at Base*FEST Powered by USAA. 

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar

Walters’ blues and contagious laughter carried him all over the country and right up to that stage, along with headliners Thompson Square and DNCE.

“You know, when you’re going up onto that stage, and the first thing you worry about is ‘please don’t let me trip,'” he laughed. “But then I gathered everyone around me together and I said, ‘Okay guys, rule number one: have fun.'”

Also read: The votes are in – this Coastie is the MISSION: MUSIC winner

For many veterans, who put their creative careers on hold when they join the military, building an artistic life can be challenging. Opportunities like Mission: Music give talented service members a helpful boost as a way of thanking them for that service. Nationwide coverage and the chance to play at an event with major headliners can be a game-changer.

Walters called the experience one of the highlights of his musical career.

“They say you get the rockstar treatment, well, we got the ‘blues star’ treatment!”

Follow Walters’ journey from the U.S. Coast Guard to the blues, to competing in Mission: Music and receiving that victory call, all the way to the stage at Naval Air Station Pensacola and his meeting with Thompson Square in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvbQUBaGlwo

(Bobby Blackhat slays at Base*FEST Powered by USAA)

MUSIC

This song perfectly describes how troops feel when they miss their families

The go-to song for so many troops on long deployments missing their friends and family back home was originally written for a little boy.


Singer Richie McDonald wrote the song for his son who was 4-years-old at the time while the band was on tour in 2001. His son asked, “Daddy, when are you coming home?” It makes you wonder how many times our servicemen heard those same words in the years to come. The song was soon adopted by many in service. And ever since, the band has dedicated it to our military every single night.

This former paratrooper is now a country music megastar
Photo: WATM Daphne Bye

Lonestar started playing military shows shortly after 9/11 when their song, “I’m Already There,” hit the airwaves. Many of our military men and women adopted it, writing letters describing how much those words and melody meant to them. “It’s so gratifying to know that we did something that can make somebody’s life better from being away from their families,” says Michael Britt, lead guitarist.

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