Listen to the playlist that ousted a dictator - We Are The Mighty
MUSIC

Listen to the playlist that ousted a dictator

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.


Noriega was ousted by Operation Just Cause, the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. But before he was captured by American troops, he took asylum in the Panamanian location of the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See — a diplomatic mission of the Vatican.

 

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Gen. Manuel Noriega is escorted onto a U.S. Air Force aircraft by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The former Panamanian leader will be flown to the United States, where he will be held for trial on drug charges. (DoD Photo)

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.

He died of a brain tumor in May 2017.

You can read the entire list of music from a FOIA request made by The George Washington University.

MUSIC

That time a President’s son got high with Willie Nelson at the White House

Country-Western legend Willie Nelson enjoys a great view. It’s also well-known that he enjoys smoking marijuana. There’s even a well-known country song about protecting oneself from getting into Nelson’s allegedly potent stash.


For years, in interviews and in his biographies, Nelson alluded to smoking weed with a “White House insider” during the Presidency of Jimmy Carter. Nelson says the insider knocked on his hotel room door one night and offered to give him an exclusive tour of the Presidential mansion. On the roof, Nelson says the insider had a beer in one hand and a fat Austin Torpedo in the other.

In a 2015 interview with GQ, Nelson admitted what he’d long neglected to answer. His insider friend was actually Chip Carter, otherwise known as James Earl Carter III, son of then-President Jimmy Carter.

Nelson, after admitting that his friend “looked a lot like…could have been, yeah…” Chip Carter, he goes on to say that the incident wasn’t anything to brag about.

“… at the time, seemed like the thing to do. We were there, and there it was, and uh…why not, you know? And they have a great view from the roof.”

When asked if he hid the story and his friend’s identity to keep from embarrassing the President, Nelson denied it, saying President Carter knew his own son and that he definitely knew the Red-Headed Stranger.

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President Carter with Willie Nelson and friends. (National Archives)

Chip Carter, now 65, says Nelson told him not to tell anybody.

For all the talk of staying out of Willie Nelson’s weed, Nelson has started his own proprietary brand of marijuana, calling it “Willie’s Reserve.” You can pick it up from dispensaries in Washington, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon.

“I’ve bought a lot of pot in my life,” Nelson told GQ. “And now I’m selling it back.”

Read the whole 2015 Chris Heath interview with Willie Nelson on GQ.com.

MUSIC

The history of the ‘Dead March’ played before military executions

The U.S. military hasn’t executed a prisoner since the 1961 hanging of Pvt. John Bennett at Fort Leavenworth. Prior to 1959, prisoners sent to the gallows by the U.S. military were afforded certain last rights demanded by regulations that included an escort, a chaplain, a last meal, unlimited letters to loved ones, and a military band.

Listeners might be familiar with aa few bars of legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, either through military film or television – or through the WWE’s Undertaker entrance music. The Army’s regulations called for every execution (or series of executions) have a military band accompany the prisoner(s) to the gallows playing the classical tune.

The updated guidance for military executions as of 1959 did not call for the band, but still included the meal, letters, and religious paraphernalia. Only ten military members have been executed for crimes outside of wartime, and only two of those were executed after Apr. 7, 1959, and they did not walk to the gallows to the “Dead March.” Private Bennett and John E. Day, both convicted killers, were hanged in the boiler room of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to no fanfare.


How Chopin’s “Funeral March” became the official U.S. military death march is another story. The song comes from the composer’s Sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor. Chopin was celebrated for his piano miniatures, and the Funeral March (the sonata’s third movement) was written much earlier than any of his sonatas. Chopin is said to have penned the work commemorating the 1830-1831 November Uprising, where ethnic Poles attempted to shake off the yoke of the Russian Empire.

The hopeful uprising was soon put down by the Russian Army, and the Tsar tightened Russia’s grip on Poland. Chopin’s original manuscript featured the date of the uprising’s start, Nov. 28, 1830. The piece’s dark tone and minor keys immediately associated it with death and it was played at the composer’s funeral – as well as those of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and even Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.

The song would come to ingratiate itself in pop culture around the world as a song (rightly) associated with death and dying, from Saturday morning cartoons to Deadmau5.

The U.S. military’s (and many other armed forces around the world) bands, drums, and buglers all played an important battlefield communications function for centuries. Troops, unable to hear the orders of their officers over the din of fighting, would hear and could respond to general orders as played through songs.

In the years following Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, it became increasingly popular. The Funeral March was the most popular part of an already-popular musical hit. Soon after, the song’s popularity took on a life of its own and the song came full-circle from one of seriousness and piety toward the dead to one of parody. The music that called to mind death and the fragility of life was now being used to make fun of the same concepts.

The piece hasn’t always been just for executions. It accompanied the American Unknown Soldier from World War I as he made his way aboard ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean one night in Le Havre, France. It has been used for many a prominent U.S. official as they lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

No matter how parodied it was or why it was used, the Funeral March would endure as a powerful piece of music, not just for the U.S. military, but for the world at large. Even to this day, it evokes the foreboding we associate with death and dying.

And that could be why it didn’t endure in military execution regulations. At this point, it just seems overly macabre and slightly cruel.

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This guy got kicked out of both Soundgarden and Nirvana before becoming a Green Beret

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.

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Everman (far left) with Nirvana (pre-Dave Grohl).

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.

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Everman (far right) with Soundgarden.

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:

Also at Military.com:

For Military Families, ‘Tis The Season For Purging

Pentagon To Send 250 MRAPs Back To Iraq To Fight ISIS

Obama Will Decide On Top Honor For Black WWI Hero

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8 awful songs that make combat camera troops want to die

You let us tag along on your convoy. You let us raid a house in the stack. You watched our ass while our head was in a camera viewfinder. You even let us eat your food. So when you ask us for some of the footage of the unit in action we’re happy to oblige.


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You see how combat camera has to face the opposite direction of where all the grunts are looking? We kinda owe you one for stopping whatever comes that way.

When you want us to make a music video of it, no problem, even though we know using copyrighted music is illegal. We want you to keep letting us roll with you…and for you to keep saving our asses.

But then one of your officers tells us to use one of these eight songs and it makes us die inside.

1. Drowning Pool — “Bodies”

This is by far the most overused song ever paired with combat camera footage (with “Soldiers” a close second). And it’s not just commanders asking combat camera to do this. Civilians do this ad nauseam.

That video has more than a million views. A MILLION. I don’t understand the enduring popularity of this song, but if there’s a better or more obvious song about killing a lot of people, I haven’t heard it.

2. Saliva — “Click Click Boom”

A full 20 percent of YouTube is probably the same video footage of the military with this Saliva song — this Saliva song about how great the lead singer’s childhood was and how totally awesome it is that he’s on the radio now.

I wish Beavis and Butthead were around to rip on this band. Still, it does make it pretty easy to edit a video fast, even if I feel like a complete hack afterward.

3. Outkast — “B.O.B.”

Civilians also like to make videos with this song. Which is understandable but, except for the title “Bombs Over Baghdad,” it’s not really about anything military related.

The only lyric the casual listener probably understands for most of the song is “Bombs Over Baghdad,” so when you send it to your mom, she gets the point of the video, and can’t really hear about the struggles of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s pre-stardom struggle.

4. Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott — “Hero”

The singers from Nickelback AND Saliva. Enough said. Good lord this song was so big in 2002-2003. You’ll be just as proud of a video featuring you clearing houses to this song as you are your trucker hat collection and your flip phone.

This song was supposed to be an uplifting anthem for the first Spider-Man movie but it’s the most depressing song I’ve ever been asked to use in any video ever. I bet if you asked Kirsten Dunst what the low point of her career was, it would be that she didn’t have the choice to be excluded from this music video.

5. P.O.D. — “Boom”

Another band who sings about how they’re a band now. If you haven’t noticed the trend, guitar riffs and shouting “boom” were super popular in the early 2000s.

P.O.D. is the MySpace of metal. They’re still around but no one knows why.

6. Toby Keith — “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”

This song is so cheesy, I’m actually surprised Chad Kroeger didn’t write it, but maybe there are some things even Pop Rock Jesus won’t do. Some of you might think this song is awesome but I doubt you’d play it at a party in front of all your friends.

Also Toby Keith got more awards and plaques from military units just for singing this song than some people got for actually enlisting after 9/11.

7. Godsmack — “I Stand Alone”

Forget for a moment that the frontman sounds like Adam Sandler’s impression of Eddie Vedder. This song’s lyrics read like they were translated from Nepali by Google Translate. Also, unless your unit is the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae (it isn’t), you definitely don’t stand alone.

8. AC/DC — “Thunderstruck”

Ok, this isn’t an awful song. I mean, I get why you might want six minutes of your squadron or platoon blowing things up to AC/DC. But, aside from the opening minute and a half or so, this is could be any AC/DC song. All AC/DC songs sound like this. That’s why we love them.

Special Award:

Nazareth — Hair of the Dog

To be honest, this request only happened once, but do you really think any young Marine is going to love watching themselves on a dismounted patrol to this song?

Why not just have me choose something from Chicago’s greatest hits? If I gave any grunt a music video of themselves with this song, they’d beat my Air Force ass so hard.

There’s no joke here, I’d just get my ass kicked.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This WWII veteran played a song for the sniper trying to kill him

Just two weeks after American forces landed at Normandy on D-Day, Jack Leroy Tueller, one of those Americans, was taking sniper fire with the rest of his unit. Tueller played the sniper a beautiful song from his trumpet.

He was orphaned at age five, but before World War II, Jack Tueller would play first-chair trumpet in the Brigham Young University orchestra. After going to war as a pilot, his trumpet skills would serve him well, along with at least one German soldier and both their families.

Jack Tueller served in the Army Air Forces in the European Theater, flying more than 100 combat missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt. He earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, among others. After the war, he became a missilier in the newly-formed U.S. Air Force and would serve in Korea and Vietnam as well. But his most memorable military moment would always be a night in Normandy when the power of music risked — and saved — his life.

It was a dark, rainy night in Northern France when then-Capt. Tueller decided to play his trumpet for everyone within earshot. The only problem was that not everyone in the area would be very receptive to a song in the dead of night — especially not the sniper trying to shoot him dead.


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Capt. Jack Tueller in 1943.

That wasn’t about to deter a man like Tueller, who took his trumpet on every combat mission. If he was ever shot down, he wanted to use it to play songs in the POW camps.

Tueller had been grounded for the night. His unit already cleared most of the area of snipers, but there was one left. Tueller’s commander told him not to play that night because at least one sniper was still operating in the area. The sniper had a sound aimer, which meant he didn’t have to to see his target, only hear it.

But the pilot insisted. He needed a way to relieve his own stress. His commander told him, “it’s your funeral.”

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(WeDoitfortheLoveofMusic.com)

Jack Tueller thought to himself that the sniper, suddenly being on the losing end of World War II in Europe, was probably as scared and lonely as he was. And so he decided to play a German love song on the trumpet, Lili Marlene, and let the melody flow through Normandy’s apple orchards and into the European night.

The airman played the song all the way through and nothing happened.

Listen to Tueller, who would live on to be a Colonel in the Air Force after the war, play his version of the tune in the video below (58 seconds in).

The very next morning a U.S. Army Jeep leading a group of captured Wehrmacht soldiers approached Tueller and his cohorts. The military policemen told Capt. Tueller that one of the POWs, who was on their way to England, wanted to know who was playing the trumpet the night before.

The captured German, just 19 years old, burst into tears and into the song Tueller played the night before. In broken English, the man told Tueller he thought about his fiancée and his entire family when he heard his trumpet — and he couldn’t fire. It was the song he and his fiancée loved and sang together. The man stuck out his hand.

Captain Jack Tueller shook the hand of his captured enemy.

“He was no enemy,” Tueller says, looking back. “He was scared kid, like me. We were both doing what we were told to do. I had no hatred for him.”

Jack Tueller died in 2016 in his native state of Utah at age 95, still playing the same trumpet he carried on all of his World War II air sorties.

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‘In the Navy’ was almost an official Navy recruiting song

At some point in your life (especially if you’ve ever been in the Navy), you’ve heard Village People’s 1979 disco classic, “In The Navy.” Whatever you know about the group and this song, know these two things: First, their characters are supposed to be the ultimate, macho, American men. Second, the Navy asked the band to use this song as the Navy’s official recruiting song.


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Following up on the success of the band’s previous hit, “YMCA,” the United States Navy approached the band’s management to get permission to use it in a recruiting campaign. The song was written well before the Navy asked about it and, in the service’s defense, it seems like a pretty innocuous song, praising the life of a sailor.

“… Search the world for treasure ,
Learn science technology.
Where can you begin to make your dreams all come true ,
On the land or on the sea.
Where can you learn to fly…”

A deal was struck. The Navy could use the song for free in a commercial so as long as the Village People could film the music video for the song aboard a real U.S. Navy ship. The Village People performed the song aboard the frigate USS Reasoner at Naval Base San Diego. The song peaked at #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts.

But seeing as the band was, for the most part, an openly gay band in the late 1970s, upon closer inspection, the lyrics seemed to be filled with double entendre. To the Navy, it began to be seen as an anthem for promoting homosexual intercourse while underway.

Everywhere the Navy looked in the song, there was some sort of implicit reference.

“… If you like adventure,
Don’t you wait to enter,
The recruiting office fast.
Don’t you hesitate,
There is no need to wait,
They’re signing up new seamen fast…”

According to the band, however, that’s not true at all. The principle writer of the songs, frontman (and faux-policeman) Victor Willis has said there are no intended homosexual references in any of the songs, not “In The Navy” or “YMCA.” The Navy (and general public) was applying those meanings on their own.

In fact, Victor Willis isn’t even a gay man. The lyrics are just a play intended to make people think there’s more to the background than there really is. In the end, it’s just supposed to be a fun pop song.

Still, the Navy decided to stick with its old “Anchors Aweigh” for recruiting purposes. In the long run, it was probably for the best. The Navy kept its tradition intact and both the Village People and the Navy benefited from the song’s enduring popularity, especially in terms of pop-culture homage.

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.

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“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.

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.

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9 of the most memorable pop songs from war movies

Nothing makes a war movie pop like its soundtrack. Films that are scored by famous composers stay with us forever. Hans Zimmer did “Black Hawk Down,” “Saving Private Ryan,” was scored by John Williams, and of course, the most famous war film score ever, Maurice Jarre’s work for the WWI epic “Lawrence of Arabia.”


But not every war movie needs to be scored. There are a few movies where a well-placed pop song is an epic use of screen time. When a director uses a “needle drop,” it can push the scene into something unforgettable.

1. “What A Wonderful World” from “Good Morning Vietnam”

In a movie full of great music and memorable scenes, how do you even choose the most poignant? Barry Levinson’s 1987 film juxtaposes Louis Armstrong’s classic song with imagery of the men fighting the war, the civilians caught in the middle, and the corruption of the South Vietnamese regime.

2. “Danger Zone” from “Top Gun”

No opening sequence starts a movie better than the song that keeps Kenny Loggins in the money to this day. The Navy even used this movie as recruiting tool, with a full 90 percent of applicants reporting that they’d seen “Top Gun” the year it came out.

3. “The End” from “Apocalypse Now”

Did I say “Top Gun” has the best opening scene song? It has to compete with the first shots of “Apocalypse Now,” featuring the Doors’ “The End”.

4. “Tracks of My Tears” from “Platoon”

Charlie Sheen gives us a stark vision of his future, jamming with his friends to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ 1965 hit, smoking all manner of things while knocking back a few beers. This scene is just as iconic as the Sgt. Elias death scene or the end of the movie, where Sheen’s character looks back on his tour.

5. “Surfin’ Bird” from “Full Metal Jacket”

Sure there are many great musical moments in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic Vietnam War film. “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs playing when Joker and Rafterman meet Animal Mother is the start of something beautiful, not to mention the other iconic music scene that bridges the basic training and war sequences.

The Trashmen’s 1963 song “Surfin’ Bird” dominates as the Americans push the NVA back from Hué City.

6. “Do Wah Diddy” from “Stripes”

I think the YouTube commenter Brian Buchanan said it best about this scene from the Bill Murray and Harold Ramis comedy “Stripes” — “Funny scene, but these two morons would be doing push up ’til they died.”

7. “Dream Lover” from “Hot Shots”

Yeah, “Hot Shots” isn’t a real war movie in the sense that anything really happened but you can say that about “The Hurt Locker” too. Even so, I’ll never forget when Topper Harley sees Ramada Rodham Hayman for the first time.

“I was really impressed with the way you handled that stallion. You know, when I saw you dig your heels into his sides, tighten up the reigns, and break his spirit, I never wanted to be a horse so much in my life.”

8. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” from “Top Gun”

If this movie and Kenny Loggins prompted a bunch of people to join the Navy, I wonder how many late-80s women had to put up with guys singing to them in bars until the fall of Communism.

9. “Sgt. Mackenzie” from “We Were Soldiers”

While not technically a pop song, this song was written about the singer’s grandfather’s service in WWI and is undeniably awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why so many veterans turn to music after war

An increasing number of studies and testimonials suggest that music heals symptoms of trauma, depression, and anxiety. As a result, veterans are being offered more music programs to help with healing after service.


Walter Reed Army Medical Center and at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence have created a music therapy program.

There are music therapists at VA hospitals across the country.

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Vietnam War veteran and Guitars for Vets volunteer James Robledo places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Guitars for Vets photo)

And there are non-profit organizations like Guitars for Vets, which provides free guitar lessons — and a guitar — to veterans nationwide.

Vietnam War veteran James Robledo is a graduate of the program and the chapter coordinator at the Loma Linda chapter in California who, as a volunteer, has helped over 180 veterans graduate from the program.

“Playing the guitar takes concentration, it’s a little frustrating, it’s a challenge — but when you’re doing that, everything else disappears,” Robledo told We Are The Mighty.

Guitars for Vets — and its impact — has gained national attention. Robledo was named the 2015 National Humanitarian of the Year by the National Association of Letter Carriers, and he was invited to a music panel at the White House as well as to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“There have been students that have come back and said because of the program they no longer have suicidal thoughts. And that’s what we’re about,” added Robledo.

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It costs $200 to put a veteran through the program, and all the funding comes from donations. (Guitars for Vets photo)

Ted Peterson, a veteran of the Navy and the Army and another graduate of the program, joined Robledo (and Willie Nelson — maybe you’ve heard of him) at the White House for a panel on music in the military.

He has written songs about the military community, including one that helped provide solace after the loss of loved ones.

“Learning to play guitar has let me reinvent myself. My knees and back are pretty banged up, but I can still impact other peoples’ lives in a positive way,” said Peterson about how he uses music to help others.

To date, Guitars for Vets has administered over 25,000 guitar lessons and distributed over 2,500 guitars to Veterans, and their waiting list keeps growing, which is why We Are The Mighty has partnered up with Base*FEST powered by USAA to donate $1 (up to $10k) every time you vote for one of our veteran artists and Mission: Music finalists until Sept. 23, 2017.

Editors’s Note: Voting is now closed. We reached our goal of donating $10k to Guitars for Vets — thank you to all those who supported this program!

MUSIC

This country song commemorates the Vietnam War’s Operation Hump

Musical duo Big Rich are normally known for their flashy country songs — tunes you’d be accustomed to hearing at big parties and tailgates. But in 2006, the two country stars took their music down a different path with a soulful song that remembers and honors Operation Hump — one of many costly battles that American soldiers saw themselves engaged in during the Vietnam War.


Titled “8th of November,” a reference to the official start of Operation Hump, the song brings to life the story of one Master Sgt. Niles Harris, now retired from a lengthy career with the US Army. Harris got his first taste of combat in the mid-1960s in Vietnam, deploying as a Sky Soldier with the legendary 173rd Airborne Brigade’s 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment.

Also read: How Marines honor their fallen heroes — on the battlefield and at home

On the 8th of November, 1965, as the song goes, a combined force of 400 soldiers from the regiment’s 1st Battalion, Australian and New Zealander units, were ordered to step out on a search-and-destroy mission where they would root out and strike Vietcong irregulars with the hopes of pushing them out of the region.

Within hours of beginning their move towards Hill 65, a key objective, 1st Battalion’s C Company was ambushed by a massive force of Vietcong, dug in on the side of the hill, and hidden in the dense jungle surrounding the American-led force.

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Paratroopers taking fire from Vietcong during Operation Hump (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

B Company, also sent out on the mission, began making its way towards Charlie with the hope of relieving the beleaguered Sky Soldiers, taking heavy fire from VC fighters. The fighting was so close at times that B Company infantrymen often found themselves fixing their bayonets to deal with surprise close-in guerrilla attacks.

As it turns out, these 400 soldiers had stumbled onto an entire regiment of Vietcong. Settling into the battle, B Company called in a number of highly successful artillery strikes that forced away the VC fighters…albeit temporarily.

Instead of retreating, the VC commander ordered his troops to outflank the American element, which was now in the process of recovering its fallen and entrenching itself for a prolonged battle. By positioning his guerrillas close to the wary Sky Soldiers, he theorized that the American units would be unable to call in more artillery strikes, giving the VC an advantage.

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Members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in combat on Hill 875 during the Vietnam War (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

However, even in the midst of the fierce battle, with soldiers at times having to engage in hand-to-hand combat, the men of the 503rd held their ground and successfully repelled the Vietcong. Hill 65 was now theirs for the taking. A full evacuation would take place the following morning, on the 9th.

Vietnam War: The 10 most memorable Vietnam War songs

Even with the American victory, the battle still took its toll on the 503rd, with 49 Sky Soldiers killed in action, and considerable numbers listed wounded in action. The Australian/New Zealander detachment also sustained two fatal casualties of its own.

Operation Hump proved to be one of the deadliest days in the 173rd’s long and storied history. The event wasn’t publicly commemorated till 2006, with the release of Big Rich’s hit single.

In the years that followed, the song sparked a larger remembrance of the battle, however.  This culminated with the unveiling of a large mural in 2009 at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum at Ft. Bragg, with a significant portion dedicated to Operation Hump and the 49 Sky Soldiers who lost their lives that fateful day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote now for your favorite MISSION: MUSIC Finalist

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

These veterans beat out hundreds of applicants to become the finalists for Mission: Music — now it’s up to YOU to vote for the one who will have the chance to play live at Base*FEST powered by USAA.


Here’s how it works:

The links to the finalists’ voting pages are below. You can come back every day from Sept. 14 through Sept. 23 to click the vote button on their page.

For every vote received, USAA will donate $1 to Guitars for Vets (up to $10k), a non-profit organization that helps veterans heal through music.

Meet your finalists!

Jericho Hill

Listen to the playlist that ousted a dictator
From left to right: Steve Schneider (US Army), McClain Potter (US Navy).

Jericho Hill is a band created by Army vet Steve Schneider and Navy corpsman McClain Potter. They’ve been writing music and performing together since 2012. CLICK HERE FOR JERICHO HILL’S VOTING PAGE.

Theresa Bowman

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Theresa Bowman (US Air Force)

Theresa Bowman grew up as a Navy brat. She began her music career very early and eventually branched out, developing an interest in stringed instruments. CLICK HERE FOR THERESA’S VOTING PAGE.

Bobby Blackhat Walters

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Bobby Blackhat Walters (US Coast Guard)

After 27 years of service in the Coast Guard, including serving as Military Aide to the President, Bobby decided to pursue music professionally. CLICK HERE FOR BOBBY’S VOTING PAGE.

Home Bru

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From left to right: Matthew Brunoehler (US Marine Corps), Chelsea Brunoehler (US Navy, US Coast Guard)

Home Bru is a band comprised of husband-and-wife Matt Brunoehler (guitar/banjo/vocals) and Chelsea Brunoehler (bass/vocalist) and an array of friends. CLICK HERE FOR HOME BRU’S VOTING PAGE.

JP GUHNS

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JP Guhns (US Marine Corps)

JP is a US Marine with four combat deployments to Iraq Afghanistan. He is also a singer/songwriter, life documenter, spirited lover, and careful father. CLICK HERE FOR JP’S VOTING PAGE.

Articles

Why Johnny Cash was the first Westerner to learn Stalin was dead

While he’s more famous for being “The Man In Black,” Johnny Cash served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War and was the first man outside of the Soviet Union to learn of Premier Joseph Stalin’s death.


Cash was born J.R. Cash and was raised in a hardscrabble family in Arkansas. He was forced to begin working at the age of 5 and he began playing and writing his own songs at the age of 12 after one of his brothers was killed in a farming accident.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

At the age of 18 in 1950, J.R. Cash joined the Air Force and was forced to change his name to John. He rose through the ranks and served as a Morse code operator. He spent much of his time quickly decoding communications between Soviet officials.

On March 3, 1953, he was a staff sergeant manning his post in Landsberg, Germany, when a surprising message beeped into his ears. Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, who had suffered from ill health for years, had died.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

The leader of Russia had suffered a massive heart attack that day and died quickly.

The Man In Black passed the message up the chain and returned to work. Cash’s job already required that he have limited off-post privileges and contact with locals. Still, he couldn’t discuss what happened with even his close friends.

The rest of the world would soon learn of Stalin’s death and the ascent of Georgy Malenkov.

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Johnny Cash as a newly signed musician at Sun Records in 1955. (Photo: Sun Records. Public Domain)

Cash, meanwhile, would leave the service honorably just over a year later and return to Texas where he had trained. He married his first wife the same year and signed with Sun Records in 1955.

He played the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time the same year.

Over the following 48 years, Cash wrote thousands of songs and released dozens of albums before his death in September 2003 at the age of 71.

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