Songs have a way of telling the story of someone’s life. I feel like these songs describe what I’ve been through in one way or another, from childhood until now. I grew up listening to different genres. As A young kid, I would sing ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia” with my twin brother. In college, I remember listening to a lot of Ice Cube. Later on, I returned to hard rock, jocking up to AC/DC and Metallica with the SEAL teams. And now, I’m singing along to Justin Timberlake with my kids on the way to drop them off at school. —Marcus Luttrell, retired Navy SEAL.
We listened to all 25 songs on his list and picked out the 13 we feel capture his badassery.
The death of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega brings back memories of the dictator’s last hours of freedom. U.S. special operators tried to force his surrender using loud rock music — music now gathered together on two handy Spotify playlists.
Instead of storming a building owned by a neutral, noncombatant foreign power, the Navy SEALs and Delta Force operators developed Operation Nifty Package. It was a psyops mission, designed to force Noriega to rescind his right of asylum in the Vatican-owned Embassy.
When Pope John Paul II refused to comment on the incident and the Papal Nuncio wouldn’t force the dictator to leave, the U.S. Army Psychological Operations Command began to blare a “Rock n’ Roll Assault on Noriega…for three full days.
Noriega was captured and sent to Miami where he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug and money laundering charges. He was extradited to France in 2010 to stand trial for money laundering there. Noriega was then extradited to Panama the next year to finish his sentences for the disappearances of political prisoners in the 1980s.
A few weeks after the bloody battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, an odd event took place at the front lines of the Civil War armies camped on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The two sides — camped approximately a mile from one another — engaged in a battle of the bands.
According to University of Virginia Professor Dr. Gary W. Gallagher in his Great Courses lecture series on the war, the concert was begun by a Union band on one side of the field who played a patriotic northern song, likely “Yankee Doodle” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Just after they finished playing, the Confederate band opened with the song “Dixie.”
The two bands then continued playing songs for one another throughout the early hours of the night, until the Union band started playing “Home on the Range,” a song popular in both Union and Confederate camps throughout the war.
The Confederate band joined in during the song, and soldiers from each side sang along.
Like the later Christmas Truce of World War I, the peace between the warring sides was short-lived. The Civil War would rage for almost two more years before its official end in May 1865. Indeed, the bloodiest battle of the war, Gettysburg, would take place just a few short weeks after the impromptu concert.
These veterans served in different branches and different conflicts, but one thing unites them — their love of music.
We Are The Mighty and USAA flew the Mission: Music finalists to the world-famous Ocean Way Studio in Nashville for a recording session where we took the opportunity to chat about the music that influenced them along the way.
U.S. Marine JP Guhns likened songs to little checkmarks — little memories — along his military career, while husband and wife duo Home Bru brought up how music connected them to their family.
Meanwhile, Steve Schneider of Jericho Hill related to Thrice’s “Stare at the Sun,” a tune about looking for something to believe in. Many veterans can relate to the feeling of questioning what they’re fighting for, and for this soldier, music helped him come up with an answer.
“There are days in the military where you might not have a whole lot to do, but they’re gonna find stuff for you to do,” laughed U.S. Navy veteran McClain Potter as he explained why “Everyday is Exactly The Same” from Nine Inch Nails is on his Battle Mix.
Josh Anchondo started his adult life in the Navy, specifically Kings Bay, Georgia. Now, he’s self-styled luxury-events emcee known as DJ Supreme1 and his work takes him to the party hotspots of South Florida and Las Vegas. But he loves to give back to groups like Toys For Tots, Susan G. Komen, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
This time, he’s playing for his second family: the U.S. military.
The Palm Beach Gardens-based DJ is headlining the next BaseFEST Powered by USAA on June 2, 2018, at Naval Station Mayport, near Jacksonville, Fla. He’s come a long way from the days of being in the silent service.
“We would be deployed 90 days at a time,” says the former sailor Anchondo. “No sunlight, no newspaper… So my escape being submerged for that amount of time was music.”
He says it’s like living a dream to be able to provide a temporary escape to those going through similarly rough situations. He did five years in the Navy as a sonar technician and the last 20 as a DJ — yes, there’s a little overlap there.
“I know for a fact the military got me to where I am today in my career, to being a great man, a great father, and to living up to the core values that I learned in the military,” he says. “Honor, courage, and commitment. Those core values will always be with me.”
In the Navy, he spent all his spare time training to be a DJ — eating, breathing, and sleeping music. His favorite records were primarily old-school (even for the late 1990s) hip-hop. But his sounds also extend to the unexpected, like jazz and pop standards, doing live mash-ups of pop songs along the way.
“I kind of let the crowd take me wherever they want,” he says. “Take us wherever the night takes us.”
Anchondo, aka DJ Supreme1, is not just a DJ who does music festivals and tours like Dayglow. Like many veterans, he’s an entrepreneur with a heart. He runs his own event productions company and wants to start his own tour — the DoGood FeelGood Fest, focused on doing great work in the community. His company, Supreme Events, even prioritizes charity work.
He acknowledges that DJs have a bad reputation, given what happens in the nightlife around them, but he wants you to know they can have a positive influence as well — and that influence can be amazing. BaseFEST is a huge show for him. He wants his fellow vets and their families to come see and feel his positive vibes at the coming BaseFEST at NS Mayport.
It’s an all-day event that brings the music, food, activities, and more that you might get from other touring festivals — but BaseFEST is an experience for the whole family, with a mission of providing a platform for giving back to family programs on base, boosting morale for troops and their families.
BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000 fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for service members and their families and friends. The 2018 tour kicked off at Fort Bliss, Texas and runs through Sept. 22 with a stop at Twentynine Palms, Calif.
There’s no doubt that if there were any American to have truly “lived the dream,” it was Elvis Presley. He was born into poverty and rose to stardom. His songs were omnipresent, his films were everywhere, and, on his 21st birthday, he became eligible for the draft.
On Mar. 24th, 1958, the day his fans would call “Black Monday,” Elvis Presley was sworn into the U.S. Army. He had all the power and money in the world and he became a regular ol’ Private, just like everyone else. He even gave up his beloved hair.
The Pentagon was well aware of his star power and offered him a role in the Special Service. Basically, he would have been free to continue his music career, receive special treatments, and, essentially, just wear a uniform as a formality. The Navy offered to create an “Elvis Presley company” and the Air Force wanted him to just tour recruiting centers.
But that’s not how The King rolled. Even though thousands of fans wrote to the Army asking for his release, he thought it would have been “unfair” if he got out in any way other than completing his two-year commitment. He became a cavalry scout and left for Friedberg, West Germany.
That’s the most beautiful thing about The King of Rock and Roll’s service. He trained just as hard as everyone else. He qualified as an expert with his rifle. He took up karate classes to pass the time, which later became a life long hobby. He even donated his Army pay to charities while using his rock-star money on the men in his unit.
Presley made it very clear he was there to be a soldier first. Towards the end of his career, they offered him a role in the film, G.I. Blues. It was essentially a musical comedy, starring Elvis, that told the story of his joining the Army. Paramount came all the way out to Friedberg with hopes that they’d get some “on location” shots of Presley, but he wouldn’t be discharged for another few months. So, his stunt double took his place for all the scenes that were shot in Germany.
Sgt. Presley made a lifelong friend in fellow soldier, Charlie Hodge. Hodge had been a small-time musician before his service (nowhere near the levels of fame of Elvis enjoyed in his prime). When Elvis left the service in 1960, Hodges came with him. Hodges was one of the few friends Presley could count on and became a key member of the Memphis Mafia and the TCB until Elvis’ passing in 1977.
If you’re in the military or are a veteran and haven’t heard about the Space Force yet, it’s time to climb out from under that rock you’ve been living in. There’s a sixth branch of the U.S. military now, and it’s going to be a department of the Air Force.
Although the Air Force has released very limited guidance on what the new branch will do, how it will roll out, or basically anything at all except that it’s called the ‘Space Force’ and will exist one day, the excitement the idea of a space force brings the military community is palpable.
So if you’re excited to do your part, you can fully engulf yourself in the burgeoning Space Force culture, you can now enjoy the first Space Force song, sure to be shouted at the top of many a Spaceman’s lungs every morning during Space-ic Training.
This songified version of President Trump’s Space Force announcement was created by The Gregory Brothers, whose YouTube page is packed with pop culture songification. Due to the popular demand for the song to be made into a ringtone via the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco, the Gregory Brothers responded immediately.
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.
The mindblowing journey of Jason Everman took him from being the guy who got kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden to U.S. Army Special Forces to Columbia University philosophy grad.
Only the most devoted Nirvana fans remember Everman, who became the band’s fourth member when he joined as second guitarist for the Bleach album tour in 1989. While a lot of fans loved the metal guitar flair he brought to their sound, things didn’t go well in the van and the band abandoned a tour in New York City they fired him. His tenure in the band yielded exactly one recording session, a cover version of “Do You Love Me” that appeared on a long out-of-print KISS tribute album.
During his brief time in the band, Everman (who was the only guy who’d ever held a job and was therefore the only one with any cash) paid the long overdue $606.17 bill for the Bleach recording session so the band could release the album. They never paid him back.
That blow was quickly softened when he was asked to join Soundgarden (a band he preferred to Nirvana) as their bass player shortly after returning to Seattle. That gig lasted about a year before he was fired again for what sounds like the crime of being moody on the bus.
Everman kicked around, took some jobs and played in another moderately successful band before deciding to join the Army. He was in basic training at Ft. Benning when Kurt Cobain killed himself and a drill sergeant recognized his photo from an article about Cobain’s death.
Those of us who worked at Nirvana’s record company at the time knew Jason as “the metal guy” (Kurt’s description) and no one had much idea what had happened to him, although there were incredibly vague rumors that he had something to do with the military.
“Something to do with the military” turned out to be a career in the Special Forces and service in Afghanistan and Iraq. The article is light on details, mostly because Everman didn’t choose to share many details and the writer had access to a lot more background about the punk rock years.
The profile was written by Clay Tarver, a veteran of the ’80s underground punk scene (and a guy I know from WHRB, our college radio station in Cambridge MA). Tarver first met Jason when Clay’s (excellent) band Bullet LaVolta opened for Soundgarden on tour. Clay later played in the (also excellent) ’90s band Chavez, became a writer and is now on board to write the screenplay for the upcoming sequel to (underrated ’00s classic) Dodgeball.
Everman left the service in 2006 and got into Columbia with a letter of recommendation from General Stanley McChrystal. He earned that degree in 2013.
This article from the New York Times Magazine published last year is a must-read for anyone who followed the underground rock scene of the ’80s as it became the mainstream rock of the ’90s. There are dozens of guys who’ve never recovered from their near-miss careers in rock and Jason got kicked out of two of the biggest bands in the world. That he quietly went out and forged a complete different kind of success is a truly amazing tale.
For the doubters, here’s some proof that Jason really was in Nirvana and Soundgarden:
And here’s a different interview with Jason that’s been hiding out on YouTube:
On July 20, 2017, the veteran community lost a valuable advocate in Chester Bennington, lead singer and front man of Linkin Park. Not only do his lyrics resonate deeply within the veteran community, he was a loud supporter of the U.S. troops.
To commemorate the life and support of Chester, let us never forget the acts of a true patriot.
1. He was a friend of Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA
2. He joined many celebrities on the “Convoy to Combat Suicide” tour
Along with Lady Gaga, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Cale Conley, and many MLB teams, the goals of the tour were to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act, getting President Obama to take Executive action in this effort, and to connect over a million post-9/11 veterans with transitional resources.
3. His vocal support of the Clay Hunt SUV Act worked
Fellow Linkin Park band member Mike Shinoda said to Military Times, “Our effort to help soldiers is a humanitarian one, about people. I hope the veterans feel our deep gratitude for their service and hope our efforts help give them the support they need to re-establish their lives.”
5. Every stop on the “Carnivores” tour, he would give a shout out to the troops
In Linkin Park’s 2014 tour, Chester would take a moment to thank the troops and veterans in attendance. He would address the audience about veteran suicide in a somber tone. He encourages the crowds to join in with him for all the troops do for the country.
During the tour, Linkin Park flies twenty two flags, each flag symbolizing the Veterans Affairs Department’s estimate for daily suicide among veterans.
Look, it is easy, and deeply enjoyable, to give Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis boatloads of crap for the shenanigans and mannerisms (shenannerisms?) he regularly deploys in the line of duty. It’s easy because he’s a good sport. It’s enjoyable because, well:
But credit where credit is due, it is no easy thing to drop in on a recording studio unprepared, be played a brand new beat, compose a non-wack verse and then get into the booth and spit your best whiteboy flow in front of a hot producer and a rapper at the top of his game.
TMR served 10 years in the Middle East as a Marine Corps combat correspondent, ala Joker from Full Metal Jacket. Though he started rapping young, he found he had to put his passion on ice during active duty — no time to think, let alone rhyme.
When he finally left the service, the transition was rough.
“It was a reality shock. I didn’t know where to go. You’re like, ‘I have all this time on my hands,’ and you get to thinking… ‘I was such a super hero in the military, but now I’m just a regular civilian. Nobody cares about me. I’m nothing now. Why should I even live?'”
Finding himself in a dark headspace familiar to many vets exiting the military, TMR did a hard thing: he asked for help.
With the assistance of the VA, he was able to reorient, finding an outlet in his long-dormant passion for rap. He now lives in Hollywood, CA, cutting tracks and shooting music videos to support his budding career as a musician.
And, no joke, in a single day of working together, TMR, producer Louden and the Artist Formerly Known as Ryan Curtis may just have succeeded in dropping the U.S. military’s first ever chart-topping hip hop track:
It’s a lock for New Oscar Mike Theme Song at the very least.
Watch as Curtis looks for lyrics in a Magic 8 Ball and TMR proves there’s no room in his game for shame, in the video embedded at the top.
When considering music that we’d want to play as we ship out to a combat zone, very few of us would think of choosing a 19th century Australian folk song about a hobo who stole a sheep. And yet, that’s exactly what the Marines of the 1st Marine Division do en masse. It may seem odd that United States Marines choose to deploy using Australia’s unofficial national anthem, but a closer look at the history of the unit (and how the song ends) helps make sense of it all.
During World War II, the Marines of “the Old Breed,” the 1st Marine Division, famously began the first Allied offensive against Japan in the Pacific at Guadalcanal. Armed with old Springfield M1903 rifles and meager stores of food and ammunition, the Marines wrested control of the island from Japan in just over six months, earning them their first of three Presidential Unit Citations in WWII and a well-deserved rest in Australia.
Say “no” to Bull Halsey. See what happens.
After the months of fighting and privation, the Marines were looking worse for wear. Sick from dysentery and weak, the men were just worn out. When they first docked in Brisbane, they were housed in what amounted to a series of shacks in swampland.
When the Marines’ commander, General Alexander Vandegrift, ordered that the entire division be moved, the Navy told him there was no way to spare the number of ships needed — and they had nowhere to go, anyway. That’s where Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and the city of Melbourne came in. Australia’s second-largest city offered to take them with open arms and Halsey would get them there.
Camps of already-pitched tents and bunks were waiting for them as they landed in Melbourne. The sick and wounded were transferred to a newly-finished hospital in nearby Parkville and the rest were given unlimited liberty for the next 90 full days. One account says the citizens of Melbourne opened their homes to the Marines. It was a mutual love affair for the guys who left their homes in the U.S. to fight with and for the Aussies.
On George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1943, the Marines marched a parade through Melbourne. During this parade, the 1st Marine Division Band decided to play the Australian folk favorite, Waltzing Matilda. The Australian onlookers loved it and cheered loudly for the procession.
Thus began the love affair between the 1st Marine Division and Australia.
When winter came, the Australians even gave the Marines their winter jackets, which were soon adopted by the USMC uniform board (no small feat). This is also where 1st Marine Division’s now-famous blue diamond patch was designed. Aside from the the red “one” and “Guadalcanal” markings, the patch also features the constellation Southern Cross, which is a symbol of Australia.
Every camp set up by the 1st Marine Division is called “Matilda.”
Marines hit three feet of rough water as they leave their LST to take the beach at Cape Gloucester, New Britain.
The Australians were jubilant for the Marines’ victory on Guadalcanal. It was bad news for the Japanese who had invaded nearby Papua New Guinea, an Australian protectorate. After their rest, the Marines’ next move prevented the Imperial Japanese Navy from invading mainland Australia by taking the war to them yet again, invading New Guinea via Cape Gloucester.
As for the sheep thief in Waltzing Matilda, he was confronted by police for his theft and refused to surrender, instead throwing himself into the nearby body of water, a billabong, to evade capture.