The reaction was so strong that the Commandant of the Marine Corps James L. Jones told Keith it was his duty as an American citizen to record the song. "It's your job as an entertainer to lift the morale of the troops," Jones said to Keith. "If you want to serve, that is what you can do. As the lead single from the album Unleashed (2002), "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue" peaked at number 1 on the country charts over the weekend of July 4. It also ranked at #22 on Blender magazine's list of the "50 Worst Songs Ever".
In a 2003 interview with CBS, Keith gave his take on the song: “It wasn’t written for everybody. And when you write something from your heart - I had a dad that was a veteran, taught me how precious our freedom is - I was so angry when we were attacked here on American soil that it leaked out of me. You know, some people wept when they heard it. Some people got goose bumps. Some people were emotionally moved. Some cheered, turned their fists in the air.”
Keith had a public feud with the Dixie Chicks over both the song and comments they made about President George W. Bush. The lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, publicly stated that the song was "ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant. Keith responded by belittling Maines' songwriting skills, and by displaying a backdrop at his concerts showing a doctored photo of Maines with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. On May 21, 2003, Maines wore a T-shirt with the letters FUTK on the front at the Academy of Country Music Awards. While a spokesperson for the Dixie Chicks said that the acronym stood for "Friends United in Truth and Kindness", many, including host Vince Gill, took it to be an obscene shot at Keith and understood the acronym to mean "Fuck You, Toby Keith." In the 2006 film Shut Up and Sing, Maines admitted that the FUTK shirt was, in fact, a shot at Keith. In August 2003, Keith publicly declared he was done feuding with Maines "because he's realized there are far more important things to concentrate on.