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.
Music is such a powerful tool in our society. It is absolutely crazy how lyrics on top of a melody can turn our brain into a mental time machine. For me, I can never listen to “Cherry Pie” by Warrant and not go back to that dive bar in Ohio where I slow danced the night away with a girl I assumed was my next ex-wife.
For many of us veterans, hearing a song might take us back to when we served or where we deployed. I spent many days in 2005 sitting by my tent in Iraq, enjoying one of those cold, delicious, non-alcoholic Busch beers while enjoying some fine tunes.
Music artists have usually gone out of their way to release one song “for the troops!” While many are not nearly as good as country music superstar Toby Keith when it comes to producing a ‘Murican tune, some have succeeded. Today we will honor 5 of those artists whose names don’t rhyme with Kobe Teeth.
You gotta be careful listening to this one, especially after watching the music video. Sometimes I think I’m Maverick and I’m getting ready to do a lot of cool things in an F-14. Then I look down at my Prius speedometer and see that I’m only doing 55. Kenny nails this song though. You cannot listen to it and not think of Tom Cruise and those other handsome flyboys in Top Gun.
Alright, before you go getting outraged and calling for my head because I included the Dixie Chicks on this list, hear me out! If you listen to the lyrics in this song and don’t get a little misty eyed, YOU might not be American! This is one of the greatest love songs ever written about the love between a deployed soldier and his lady back home. This is also one you have to be careful listening to. You might end up singing it at the top of your lungs while sitting in traffic, and it’s embarrassing the first four times it happens.
I don’t even have to explain how great this song is to all members of the military. As an Iraqi veteran I am insanely jealous that this masterpiece was released during the Vietnam era. This is the song I listen to right before I get ready for an intense night of ping pong.
The Man in Black brilliantly covered this Tom Petty song which saw heavy radio play following the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. Rumor has it that if you listen to this song three times in front of the mirror, you will actually re-enlist. You will probably also fail the urinalysis too which should have been expected if you were sitting in front of a mirror in your bathroom listening to this song.
This is the song every veteran should be listening to at their local Waffle House every single Veteran’s Day when they’re enjoying those sweet sweet waffles. If this song doesn’t hit you right in the feels then I just don’t know if there’s a place for you in this country.
Kristofferson trained as a Ranger and a helicopter pilot, eventually reaching the rank of Captain while stationed in Germany. But then he received orders to West Point to teach English.
A Rhodes Scholar educated at Oxford, Kristofferson was more interested in creative writing and music than the military, so, rather than accept orders to West Point, Kristofferson chose to leave the Army.
The move allegedly caused his family to sever ties with him, and he is rumored to not have spoken to his mother for over twenty years as a result.
Leaving the Army did not immediately pay off for Kristofferson. He found himself struggling to make ends meet in Nashville and working as a janitor at a recording studio. It was there that Kristofferson first came across June Cash. He gave her a demo tape and asked her to pass it on to Johnny Cash, which she did…but the tape went unheard.
Kristofferson, struggling to support his growing family, then briefly served in the Tennessee National Guard.
That’s when Kristofferson did something that would land most service members today in the brig:
He stole a helicopter.
“I flew in to John’s property,” Kristofferson recalls. “I almost landed on his roof.”
The country music legends Kris Kristofferson (left) and Lyle Lovett (right) performed in the East Room of The White House for D.C. schoolchildren on Nov. 22, 2011. (Image by Flickr user John Arundel | (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Kristofferson notes that he was lucky Johnny Cash didn’t shoot down the old helicopter with his shotgun.
The risk payed off, though, as Johnny Cash wound up recording the song Kristofferson was trying to get him to listen to: “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” That recording “lifted me out of obscurity,” Kristofferson admits.
Cash was a fan of Kristofferson’s bravado, and the two would go on to work together many times. With publicity help from Cash, Kristofferson penned dozens of hits, including “Vietnam Blues,” “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” and “Me and Bobby McGee.” Together with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, Cash and Kristofferson completed the group “Highwaymen.”
Kristofferson wrote songs for the likes of Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Sammi Smith, Ray Price, and Janis Joplin (with whom he had a brief relationship before her death).
His bravado served him well on screen, too, and Kristofferson has enjoyed a long running acting career in addition to his music career.
He appeared with Wesley Snipes in the “Blade” movies and even had a song on “Grand Theft Auto.” Kristofferson worked alongside Martin Scorsese, starring in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” and with Barbra Streisand in “A Star is Born,” for which he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor.
Kristofferson went on to work with Matthew McConaughey, Mel Gibson, and Tim Burton.
In 2014, Kristofferson received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award to go along with his many awards, gold records, and top 40 hits.
U.S. Army medic Joshua K. Swensen met people from all over the world while serving and those people influenced his range of musical knowledge. He’s now a music DJ in San Antonio, Texas, a town that not only has a strong military community, but a vibrant vinyl culture as well.
Not only that, but he’s heading out to Camp Lejeune over Independence Day to spin at BaseFEST powered by USAA, a free music festival that brings the entire community together at some of the largest military bases in the United States. Troops, families, and the base community can enjoy music, food & beverages, family activities, adult games, shopping, and more.
BaseFEST at Camp Lejeune will be free and open to the public (but premium tickets will get you drinks and a private beer garden — hey-o!). Swensen is looking forward to bringing his passion to the event.
Long story short, the 20th Century’s most widely-known British non-commissioned officer was real. Only his name wasn’t Pepper, it was Babington. And he was a Lieutenant General.
Paul McCartney chose the image of Gen. Sir James Melville Babington as the real-life visage of the fictional Sgt. Pepper for the Beatles 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For most people, being on a Beatles album would be the highlight of their life. Not so for one of the British Empire’s decorated officers.
The Scottish-born Babington came up in the ranks of the British Imperial military through the Boer War of the 19th century, spending decades fighting insurgencies against the Dutch descended residents of the southern tip of Africa. He scored a number of decisive wins there, becoming a feared opponent of the rebels. He left just before the end of the war, which went just about as well as you think it might when a bunch of farmers take on the largest empire on earth.
After laying the smack down on the Boers in South Africa, he did a brief stint in England before being transferred to take command of the New Zealand Defence Force in 1902. After five years, he was sent back to London, where he stayed until World War I broke out.
From there, he took command of the British 23rd Division under the New Army. Described as “elderly but fearless” he spent a lot of effort and Crown funds on outfitting his men, unlike many other commanders. As a result, his men loved him and fought so hard at legendary WWI battles like the Somme and Ypres. He also led men along the fronts that aren’t as talked about in history books, like Italy and the Asiago Plateau.
When he retired, he was Lieutenant General Sir James Melville Babington KCB, KCMG, commander of British Forces in Italy. He died in 1936, and would never know that his face finally achieved worldwide fame, probably even in South Africa.
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.
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.
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.
When Johnny Cash took the stage at California’s San Quentin State Prison on Feb. 24, 1969, one of the songs he would record there was destined to become one of Cash’s most iconic songs, as well as one of his biggest hits: “A Boy Named Sue.” It held the top spot on the country charts for five straight weeks and it was his biggest hit, climbing to the second slot on the Billboard 100 chart.
“The Man in Black” was a veteran of the United States Air Force, a morse code operator who spent much of his career spying on the Soviet Union. In fact, Cash was the first person in the West to learn that Stalin died in 1953. As a matter of fact, his distinctive facial scar was the result of good ol’ military medicine.
“A Boy Named Sue” is the story of a boy who was abandoned by his dad at a young age — after giving the boy a female name. Sue finds his dad at a bar years later and gets into a pretty nasty brawl with the old man. That’s when his dad reveals he named the boy Sue so as to make Sue tough even when his dad wasn’t around to raise him.
The song about a boy trying to kill his father probably resonated with Cash’s audience that day.
The author of the song was also a veteran. Shel Silverstein, beloved around the world for his poetry, humor, and illustrations, was drafted by the U.S. Army to fight in Korea — but by the time he arrived the war was over. He was assigned to Stars and Stripes in the Pacific, part of the new peacetime Army. And thus a legendary military writer was born to the veteran community.
It was Silverstein who penned Cash’s now-famous song about the boy with a girl’s name, although Cash put his own twist on it. During the original San Quentin recording, Cash added the line, “I’m the son of a bitch that named you Sue!” In Silverstein’s original writing, there were no curse words used. Even so, the “son of a bitch” line was censored out of the album.
Military members and veterans had a field day when they discovered the Air Force’s Max Impact Band and their highly produced music video but it turns out the Army has a few touring bands of its own – all part of the United States Army Field Band.
The Army fields a number of official touring bands, all comprised of active soldiers. But the members of the U.S. Army’s Field Band are considered “The Musical Ambassadors of the Army,” going around to play for civilians and military installations alike. The unit has four touring sub-bands: The Concert Band, The Soldiers’ Chorus, the Jazz Ambassadors, and the Six-String Soldiers — its bluegrass-country cover band.
The “Six-String Soldiers” were “The Volunteers” — a rock cover band — until a few short years ago; they now no longer perform rock music (but you can still listen to their old cover songs on their SoundCloud page).
(U.S. Army photo)
The Volunteers seamlessly transitioned between rock, pop, and country music from all decades. The band was as old as the concept of an all-volunteer force, formed in 1981, just a few years after the draft disappeared from daily American life. Like most cover bands (presumably), The Volunteers wanted to one day perform their own original material for audiences. They never got the chance, but the Six String Soldiers keep their spirit alive and well.
These days you can find all of the Army’s versatile musical soldiers performing on military bases, at VA hospitals, music festivals, and special events. They aren’t limited to the military-veteran community – that’s the whole point of their mission. They want to reach out to the public and show the diversity and vast scope of the U.S. Army.
Give a listen to The Six-String Soldiers cover Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” in the video below.
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.
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!
According to the VA, present-day “Taps” is believed to be a rendition of the French bugle signal, “Tap Toe” which stems from a Dutch word that means to shut or “tap” a keg. The most noted revision we know today was created by Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield during the American Civil War to alert soldiers to discontinue their drinking and remind them to return to garrison.
In July of 1862, Butterfield thought the original French version “L’Extinction des feux” was too formal and began to hum an adaption to his aide, who then transcribed the music to paper and assigned Oliver W. Norton, the brigade bugler, to play the notes written.
It wasn’t until 12 years later when Butterfield’s musical creation was made the Army’s officially bugle call. By 1891, the Army infantry regulated that “Taps” be played at all military funeral ceremonies moving forward.
Today, the historic song is played during flag ceremonies, military funerals, and at dusk as the sun lowers into the horizon during “lights out.”
Day is done, gone the sun, From the lake, from the hills, from the sky; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh. Fading light, dims the sight, And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright. From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night. Thanks and praise, for our days, ‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky; As we go, this we know, God is nigh. Sun has set, shadows come, Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds Always true to the promise that they made. While the light fades from sight, And the stars gleaming rays softly send, To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.
Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and Soviet political leader Joseph Stalin are famous for different reasons.
Dylan has been influential in popular music and culture for over five decades. Stalin, on the other hand, governed the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953.
Despite, their differences, when it comes to influencing people, they are both masters of poetry. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Did the dictator or the folk singer say these things?
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.
Troops make overly-hardcore videos during their deployments to showcase the badassery of military life. Absolutely nothing wrong with that — we all do it. The thing is, whenever we push the footage over to combat camera to make it into a video for YouTube, we always choose the same songs, over and over again.
We get it, you stacked bodies, so you want to make the song about how grunt you and your boys were to the tune of “Bodies” by Drowning Pool. Great song! It’s just way too overused considering the millions of other songs there are to chose from.
Choosing a great song for an awesome video requires a few things: A high-octane feel, a decent length (preferably over four minutes), a meaning behind the song, and it has to be something that hasn’t been used in every other deployment video.
Did you and your platoon not get the chance to step outside the wire, but you still want to pretend like you’re hard as f*ck? As if you guys needed to watch the whole world die from a good, safe distance? We’ve got the perfect for the POGs who want to pretend they’re badasses.
Plus, the song is too good for anyone to realize you sat on the FOB the entire deployment.
5. Johnny Cash – “The Man Comes Around”
Having a fellow veteran’s song play over your footage is kind of a no-brainer.
The song is about the end of the world told from the perspective of the pale horseman, Death. Very apt for every platoon who nicknames themselves “The Reapers.”
There aren’t hardcore Air Force or Aviation songs to chose from? Bullsh*t.
You probably weren’t experimenting on aliens, but the song can also be applied to badass airmen or MI troops. You know, just without foreign life forms in inventory.
3. Metallica – “Seek and Destroy”
Everyone always opts for a song off of “Ride the Lightning” or the “Black Album.” People tend to sleep on the album that kicked off Metallica’s career.
“Seek and Destroy” makes for one hell of a “hooah” video because it’s literally what grunts do.
2. The Animals – “The House of the Rising Sun”
Let’s be real: this song is basically singing about the struggles every troop faces. A sh*tty upbringing, plenty of alcohol, and thriving in a life of “sin and misery.”
There’re a few versions, so take your pick. The Five Finger Death Punch version may be hardcore, but The Animals’ version is, well, a masterpiece.
1. Pantera – “Cemetery Gates”
Tonally, a lot of the deployment videos are all over the place. It starts off with something high-octane, like “Click, Click, Boom” by Saliva for the convoy helmet videos, then settles into something slow and sweet, like “Crossroad” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, for the memorial piece for our fallen brothers.
“Cemetery Gates” has you covered if you want to go for something awesome for combat footage and somber for the fallen. It’s over seven minutes long, so can fit everything in.
*Bonus* Alice in Chains – “Rooster”
This song is literally about the 101st Airborne Division. And it gets a soft-pass for the number of times it’s been used in some 101st “hooah” videos. But the song is about them, so the real question is… why hasn’t this become over-used yet?