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.
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.
Summer blockbuster season is almost officially over (The Atlantic claims it stretches from March to Labor Day), and with that, we here at We Are the Mighty have been talking about our favorite movie soundtracks. Of particular interest are our favorite songs from war movies.
This list was nearly impossible to cull down, because many of the best soundtracks are instrumental compositions (which are great), but don’t exactly scream “turn me up!” So we collected a series of songs (many from Vietnam movies) that are sure to either make you sing along, dance, or cry.
10. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” Nancy Sinatra – “Full Metal Jacket”
“These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” with the line “Me love you long time” from Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”, made RR in Vietnam seem way more entertaining than it probably was.
9. “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” Otis Redding – “Platoon”
There’s just something about this song that makes you wanna roll one and kick back on a dock somewhere.
8. “California Dreaming” The Mamas and Papas – “Forrest Gump”
Speaking about rolling one…
7. “Get Around” Beach Boys – “Good Morning Vietnam”
We couldn’t have a list of our favorite songs from war movies without a little Robin Williams. In “Good Morning Vietnam,” Robin Williams’ character boosts morale much like Robin Williams did on his many USO tours.
6. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Bobby McFerrin – “Jarhead”
“Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir!” Classic.
5. “Brown Eyed Girl” Van Morrison – “Born on the Fourth of July”
Though Van Morrison never intended to release this song on an album when he recorded it, we’re sure glad he did. The Grammy’s were, too, as the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.
4. “Miracles” Coldplay – “Unbroken”
You can’t possibly listen to this song and watch this video and NOT immediately want to watch this movie.
3. “There You’ll Be” Faith Hill – “Pearl Harbor”
I know battle hardened Marines who cry during this. It’s the military version of crying after Old Yeller.
Except for all the beer and BBQ, Vietnam isn’t anything like America for an FNG…and other lessons to be learned from Forrest Gump.
1. “Sgt. Mackenzie” Joseph Milna Mackenzie – We Were Soldiers
This haunting melody perfectly captures “We Were Soldiers” final battle in la Drang Valley.
As the story goes, the singer, Joseph Milna Mackenzie wrote the song just after his wife’s death. He stared at a picture of his grandfather above his fireplace and was overcome with wonder about his grandfather’s final moments before he died on the battle field in WWI. The song, according to Mackenzie, suddenly came to him.
Army Ranger and Air Force Pararescueman Wil Willis is literally an American bad ass, so it makes sense Kid Rock’s epic song would make his Battle Mix playlist.
“Music became sort of this way of marking your time through the military.”
He’s not the only vet to talk about the impact music had on his time in the service. Like others, Willis has specific memories tied to the music he listened to while wearing the uniform, whether he connected with the lyrics or sang the songs to keep the cadence on unit runs.
“When you’re in the Ranger battalion, you’re the tip of the spear. ‘Break glass in case of war. Unleash hell’ — War Pigs is what that’s all about.”
Willis said he fought for family and love and adventure; for him, that was the whole point of service.
Do you have what it takes to be one of the few, the proud, the danceable? In this classic from a few years back, Marines bust a move when their favorite jam, Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe,’ comes on:
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.
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…).
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.
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.
In the 1965 film The Sound of Music, Captain von Trapp ran a tight ship at home. He also ran a tight ship at sea, commanding two U-Boats for the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. By the war’s end, he was the most decorated naval officer in Austria-Hungary.
Looking at the life and family of Captain Baron Georg Johannes Ritter von Trapp through the lens of the Sound of Music alone, you’d never know this man spent WWI on a u-boat that spewed poisonous fumes to its crew or that he sank tons of allied shipping in the Mediterranean — killing hundreds of enemy sailors — and was basically the best thing Austria-Hungary had going for it.
Aside from the 14 ships sank and one captured during his World War I service, he led Austria’s troops during the Boxer Rebellion in China, circumnavigated the globe twice, and saw his navy switch from sails to steam to diesel engines over the course of his career. At the war’s end in 1918, von Trapp’s record stood at 19 war patrols taking 11 cargo vessels totaling 45,669 tons sunk, two enemy warships sunk, and one captured.
U-5 was just 100 feet long but packed a terrible punch, with just a crew of 19 and four torpedoes.
Command of U-5
Captain von Trapp conducted nine combat patrols in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, and most of them were full of action. He got his first kill just two weeks after taking command of U-5, sinking the French cruiser Leon Gambetta off the coast of Italy. 12,000 tons and 684 sailors went to the bottom. Four months later, he sank the Italian submarine Nereide.
For his command during the sinking of the Leon Gambetta, von Trapp was awarded the Military Order of Maria Theresa, Austria’s highest military award.
Command of U-14
His next command was a reclaimed French submarine that was upgraded and modernized. He was the bane of British and Italian shipping in the Mediterranean, sinking 11 more enemy vessels. He earned a knighthood and then became a Baron for his service in Austria’s navy for his actions in World War I.
That’s one helluva way to start a naval career.
Training, Circumnavigation, and China service
He trained in the Officer Training School of the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Navy through the Maritime-Academy at Fiume in what is today Croatia, starting his career on sailing ships, going around the earth on the corvette SMS Saida II. He returned to Austria and joined the crew of the SMS Zenta, an iron steamship, in 1897. By 1899, the crew of the Zenta was fully engaged in China, part of the eight-nation alliance sent to relieve the foreign legation in Peking from the siege of the Chinese Boxers.
Georg was one of the seamen detached to the alliance to take one of the Taku Forts. The Austrian helped assault Fort Pei Tang with 8500 others in the multinational force. Many were killed in the bloody fighting but the allies took the fort and went on to relieve the legation in Peking.
Unfortunately for Capt. von Trapp, World War I did not end well for Austria-Hungary and he soon found himself out of a job, seeing as how the new Austria was landlocked and had no use for a Navy – and he was no about to become a Nazi just to command a ship. So he trained his children to perform and took them on tour, eventually settling down and starting the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.
After World War II, he founded Trapp Family Austrian Relief, Inc. to help aid the recovery of Austria and Austrians from the war’s devastation.
Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana – AKA DJ KA5 – is cooking up something special for his featured guest appearance in the USAA Lounge at BaseFEST this weekend. But don’t expect him to just cue up a list of Top 40 hits and fire them off, one after another. He approaches deejaying the way a trained specialist approaches a mission: he plans, he prepares, he drills, and then, when he’s got you captive on the dance floor, he executes.
Result: the beat drops and you lose your mind.
“I’m always about bringing those vibes that are taking you back to that certain time that was good for you [and] I’m always about trying to perfect my craft. That’s something that the military taught me: you can always do better.”
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 servicemembers, their families, and friends.
(Photo by USAA)
The mission of the festival is “to provide a platform to give back to family programs on base, boost morale for troops and their families, and build strong base communities that are the backbone of our military.” Musical acts like DNCE, Dustin Lynch, Ha Ha Tonka, and DJ KA5 provide a live and lively soundtrack to a wide variety of activities, games, exhibits, and dining.
For Arana, playing BaseFEST is a chance to reconnect with his veteran family, to celebrate the military education that helped set him on the path to doing what he loves.
“Deejaying is about creating a vibe and creating a feeling. You’re painting. A different song is a different color and you’re creating a masterpiece. So by the end of the night, you step back and you look at the whole paining and you realize how you did this for somebody else.”
If you spend any time at all in the military after passing basic training, chances are good that you’re going to end up in a bar with members of your unit. Chances are very good that one of those evenings will involve karaoke.
Karaoke doesn’t care if you’re a good singer or a bad singer (although the people subjected to your voice might have an opinion). Karaoke just needs your active and (hopefully) positive participation. Remember, even if you suck, you still had the intestinal fortitude to get up on a stage before a crowd full of drunken strangers — and that’s a victory of its own.
What that crowd is most likely to judge you on is your choice of song. If you get up in front of your coworkers and sing “I Touch Myself” at the top of your lungs, you will never, ever live it down. In fact, you might as well change your name and go into hiding.
Your audience will forgive a lot, especially your coworkers and battle buddies, as long as you don’t make it too difficult to forgive. So, make sure you get up on that stage with energy and good humor. Have a good time and the audience will have one with you.
Before we begin, let’s go over a few ground rules. First, if you’re with your unit, remember that you’ll likely have to see these same people every day for the next four-to-six years — but never forget to read your audience. If you’re in a bar where everyone keeps rapping Dr. Dre and they’re really good at it, maybe save your rendition of “Friends In Low Places” for a more receptive crowd.
Nor should you just pick the obvious go-to karaoke songs. Yeah, everyone likes “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but you can do better than that at 10 p.m. Songs like “Wrecking Ball,” “Sweet Caroline,” and just about anything else by Journey that isn’t “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” should probably be forgotten at this point.
“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers
You can seriously just yell this song at the top of your lungs and the crowd will still sing along with you.
You’ll know just how into this song your crowd is by the time the “dah dah dah” part of the chorus comes. Use the following barometer to judge your success.
Level 1: The audience sings with you.
Level 2: The audience sings louder than you.
Level 3: You sing the call “Dah Dah Dah” and they sing “Dah Dah Dah” in response.
Level 4: They sing in Scottish accents.
Level 5: The crowd pretends to walk while singing.
“Love Shack” by the B-52s
Everybody knows the words to “Love Shack” but, for some reason, it’s not a karaoke song that’s so overplayed anymore. Also, it’s really fun to sing and opens you up to duet possibilities.
“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
I bet it could be proven that 85 percent of white males can sing just like the guy from Jimmy Eat World. Plus, this is another one of those songs that you don’t have to be a good singer to sing — if you are a good singer though, it’s more fun than mumbling Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
“Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations
This is another one of those songs that you can get away with singing like the tone-def airman we all know I am. But if you sing this right, you’ll not only get a huge reception, but you could also end up with a crowd of screaming fans singing along with you, back-up dancers, and (potentially) a few phone numbers.
“It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy
Everyone secretly loves this song. It’s old but fun and will keep everyone in a decent mood. I labeled this as moderate difficulty because while everyone knows the pace and cadence with which Shaggy sings this song, I still can’t tell you what the actual words are.
“I’m The Only One” by Melissa Etheridge
Someone at the bar is going to be angry enough to thank you for singing this song. And while you may not draw a crowd of drunken revelers singing along with you, nailing this song will ensure everyone the crowd will love you all night.
“Purple Rain” by Prince
You have been warned. Attempting this song and failing will only do you more harm than good. No one will ever forget that time you murdered “Purple Rain.” Your nickname (and maybe even callsign) will become Purple Rain and you will be laughed at for making doves cry.
On the other hand, watching someone perfectly sing “Purple Rain” at karaoke is as unforgettable as the first time I had sex.
Musical instruments have been going to war since humans started gathering large armies — I don’t have an exact date, but I can tell you it was a long, long time ago. But humans have advanced to the point where we no longer require war drums. Instead, one guy from a unit brings a guitar on deployment and plays the same three goddamn power chords for eight months.
Musical instruments really were a necessity in warfare for much of human history. Music wasn’t just used for battlefield intimidation, it was used as a means to communicate orders to troops so they could be heard over the din of old-timey combat. Buglers were the radiomen of their day when it came to battlefield tactics. Drummers kept a marching army on the move. All the musical instruments were morale builders for troops a long way from home.
The legacy of music on the battlefield lives on in the modern-day form of U.S. military bands, like the Marine Corps’ The President’s Own, Today, they are used for ceremonial and morale-building events. Admit it, there would be a lot less interest in some events without the pomp and glory of some well-placed martial music.
It is worth nothing, however, that there is a real hierarchy to musical instruments on the battlefield, depending on which side you’re fighting, how big the instrument is, and the amount of effort it takes to haul it into combat.
And by whistles, I mean the kind lifeguards use to inform you that there’s no running next to the pool. In World War I, officers used whistles to signal a march forward and “over the top” of the trenches and toward the Kaiser. Whistles were used in battles at the Somme, Verdun, and Belleau Wood.
If it seems like a bad idea to use a loud whistle that would alert the enemy (and their machine guns) as you and your mates were coming to inflict pain in the name of the King (or whomever else), you’d be right. A charge across no man’s land was usually a pretty costly affair. The whistle was also used in a number of other ways, like a warning to stay clear of firing artillery.
A good rule of thumb if you ever find yourself in World War I: steer clear of whistles.
It’s safe to say that these are a bit out of tune.
These days, most people associate the harmonica with cowboys, cattle drivin’, rustlers, and wild-west lawmen. But it actually originated much earlier than all that. It gained popularity in the U.S. in time for the Civil War and was still pretty popular among American troops well through World Wars I and II.
Small, compact, and lightweight, it was not an instrument you’d get confused with say, an order to go over the top, and it didn’t have to be lugged around like Derek’s stupid guitar. It also made for some really great solo music when you’re sitting around by the fire, bored and waiting for your lieutenant to order you to run through mud at a machine gun.
And, unlike a drum, every once it a while, a well-placed harmonica would stop a bullet.
Which usually would not end well for you and your buds.
Bugles weren’t just used for battlefield communication, they dominated every aspect of a troop’s daily life. When to wake up, when to eat, when the duty day was over, even sick call — all communicated through bugle calls.
Unfortunately for the enemy, a bugle call more often than not meant the a hundred or more war horses were on their way to mush you and your battle buddies into the ground.
“Don’t you dare let that beat drop, son.”
Anyone who’s heard the opening bars of Metallica’s Enter Sandman can probably tell you just how awesome drums can be, even if the beat is very simple. In war, drums were not only used as communications, but also as a way to intimidate an enemy force into believing their numbers were bigger than they actually were.
Easily the best instrument for hiding an army’s numbers, bagpipes were considered a weapon of war until 1996. It was said that a highland regiment never went to war without a piper in the lead, so the bagpipes meant that that an army was on the move — and the enemy (usually the British) could have no idea how big it was. The pipes hid all other sounds.
By World War II, the pipes were relegated to being a background instrument, used only well behind friendly lines — until Bill Millan landed on Sword Beach during D-Day, sporting a kilt and playing the pipes.
The unmistakable sound of bagpipes on the move probably struck fear into the heart of any enemy, even if that sound came from miles away. It was loud enough to give you plenty of warning the Scots were on the move. They wanted you to be there when their army arrived.
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.
Lifting weights is one thing, but training for the PT test is another. Passing the test was fine, but for all my fellow over achievers out there, maxing that thing took a lot of work (usually whilst red-faced, lungs screaming, and contemplating desertion…).
Somehow I didn’t learn until my 6th year of taking the PT test that a playlist could make all the difference.
Here are 7 songs I recommend you add to yours immediately:
1. “Bodies” — Drowning Pool
Overplayed? Never. This is the song I listened to when I maxed the PT test, and if you knew what kind of whiney little b**** of a runner I am, you’d appreciate that miracle. Listen with headphones on and I guarantee you’ll beat your last score.
2. “Enter Sandman” — Metallica
Because Metallica. Obviously.
3. “Thunderstruck” — AC/DC
If it’s good enough for Iron Man, it’s good enough for me.
4. “Paradise City” — Guns N’ Roses
Shout out to retired Air Force vet Brian Ball for this recommendation. It’s a good one. Nothing like classic GNR to keep the blood pumping.
5. “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” — Fall Out Boy
Something about this song feels so intense, like sh*t is about to go down. Whatever musical wizardry is behind it, when I turn up the volume on this track, I turn up the intensity of my workout.
6. “Turn Down for What” — DJ Snake, Lil Jon
Because when you really start to sweat, you need a little pick-me-up. I can almost pretend I’m at the club instead of at the gym.
7. “You Give Love A Bad Name” — Bon Jovi
To max the PT test, you either need to be in phenomenal shape or you need to really push yourself to your limits, which is very stressful for the body and mind. Bon Jovi helps with stress. You’re welcome.
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.
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.