Bradley arrived in country on Veteran’s Day, 1970 and would spend exactly 365 days there. He and Werner, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, interviewed hundreds of Bradley’s fellow veterans to find out which songs impacted them most during their time in Vietnam — and stayed with them after.
While many of the vets were tight-lipped with their combat experiences, they were very forthcoming about their musical recollections. Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “My Girl” by the Temptations, Blood Sweat and Tears’ “And When I Die,” “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, and, for Bradley himself, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown.”
The authors compiled the Vietnam generation of veterans’ favorite songs into a reflection of how the music affected the troops who fought there and how it affects them to this day.
The “Pitch Perfect” films are actually pretty funny and the music is definitely catchy — great date night movie (you’re welcome).
If you haven’t seen them, they’re about a women’s collegiate a capella (singing without music accompaniment) group competing against other singers for glory and what not. I was wondering where the third film would go, considering most of the characters were graduating at the end of “Pitch Perfect 2” — and now we have our answer: the USO.
This introduces some military-ness into an otherwise girly world — including military working dogs and Anna Kendrick flying out the back of a heavy — but mostly it leaves me wondering one thing: How would a group like the Bardon Bellas be received on a USO tour?
And on that note, who have been your absolute favorite (and not-so-favorite) USO guests? Leave a comment and let me know.
June deployed to Fallujah during OIF as Field Radio Operator and earned several awards during his time in service. He even credits the Marine Corps for giving him the needed discipline to continually write his rap lyrics drawing them from personal experience.
Afterward, he became a CBRN instructor and trained hundreds of Marines before they deployed to their combat zones.
In 2012, Marx received an Honorable discharge from the Marine Corps then spearheaded himself to focus on his true calling — a music career.
June wears the gas mask as part of his image and believes the modern music industry is too “toxic” and there aren’t enough artists with “substance” being promoted.
A lot of popular music artists have attempted to capture the military experience over the years, but only a small percentage of them have gotten it right in the eyes of the community. Here are the 9 that did it best:
1. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Of Company B,” The Andrews Sisters (1941)
A fast-living jazz musician from Chicago gets drafted and winds up in the heat of the action with Bravo Company. But his CO is a music fan who uses his power and influence to get the rest of the guy’s band drafted and assigned to the same unit. They all wind up hated by their fellow soldiers because they’re the ones who play reveille every morning, never mind whether or not it’s a hip version of it. As classic a military tale as there is.
2. “Billy, Don’t be a Hero,” Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (1974)
A young patriot goes to war against his fiancees’ wishes and gets killed because he didn’t follow her sage guidance. And in the end she tears up the letter that documents his heroism because she feels like his service and sacrifice were a waste. This classic by these one-hit wonders may qualify as “bubblegum pop,” but its subject matter is super intense.
3. “Ballad of the Green Beret,” Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, U.S. Army (1966)
“Silver wings, upon his chest . . .” This song was written by author Robin Moore and SSgt. Sadler while Sadler was recovering from wounds he sustained while serving as a medic in Vietnam, a fact that kept him from getting grief from fellow soldiers for going on TV in full uniform and singing with kind of a high voice. “Ballad of the Green Beret” became a no. 1 hit — amazing considering how the American public was rapidly going south about the war in Vietnam and pro-military sentiments were already hard to find.
4. I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag, Country Joe McDonald (1968)
Country Joe was a counterculture crooner from the Bay Area who walked on stage at Woodstock after Richie Havens’ opening set basically to kill some time. He played two songs with little response from the massive crowd and walked off. He thought better of it and walked back on and did what was commonly known as “the FISH cheer” (that actually spells something else). The crowd came alive, so he launched into “Fixin’ to Die Rag,” a satire of the military-industrial complex and the impact of the war on suburbia, which was included in the “Woodstock” movie and, as a result, became a classic hit of the Vietnam era.
Perhaps John Fogarty’s best recorded vocal performance, “Fortunate Son” hit the airwaves at a time when the Vietnam-era draft was starting to feel like class warfare and the hypocrisy of the ruling elite was revealing itself. With a driving beat, a searing guitar riff, and Forgarty singing lyrics like “I ain’t no senator’s son, no no,” the song resonated with those doing their duty while their richer and better-placed peers didn’t. “Fortunate Son” made it to no. 3 on the charts.
6. “The Star Spangled Banner (live at Woodstock),” Jimi Hendrix (1969)
Jimi Hendrix was not that well known in America when he took the stage at Woodstock on the morning of August 18, 1969. It was a Monday morning and all but several thousand of the nearly 1 million attendees had left the festival. Hendrix, an Army vet, surprised the audience (and his band) by launching into his rendition of the National Anthem, a version that many conservatives at the time criticized as unpatriotic. But history has shown it to be perhaps the most accurate musical portrayal of the state of America at the time and, beyond that, a timeless reading of the chaos of war. In 2011, the editors of Guitar World placed his rendition at number one in their list of his 100 greatest performances.
7. “War Pigs,” Black Sabbath (1970)
With an ominous air raid siren opening and lyrics like “generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses,” this track from Sabbath’s classic second album “Paranoid” was heavy metal before anyone even knew there was such a thing. And in Ozzy’s shallow metaphor lives the sentiments of millions who have gone in harm’s way since man first took up arms.
8. “99 Luftballoons,” Nena (1983)
The oldest military story ever told: 99 balloons are mistaken for UFOs, causing a general to send pilots to investigate. Finding nothing but child’s balloons, the pilots decide to put on a show and shoot them down. The display of force worries the nations along the borders and the war ministers on each side bang the drums of conflict to grab power for themselves. In the end, a 99-year war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons, causing devastation on all sides without a victor. (Wikipedia)
9. “Bodies,” Drowning Pool (2001)
The song that launched thousands of patrols out of the FOBs and into the dirty streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. “Bodies” may not have been written with the military in mind, but it’s urgent beat and overall atmosphere of brutality worked for those who answered the call after 9-11, and they adopted it as their own. Also of note is that the song was used by interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in 2003, including over a 10-day period during the “questioning” of terror suspect Mohamedou Ould Slahi.
You can talk about them but you can’t talk without them — that’s pretty much the commo creed. One U.S. Army information technology specialist took to the mic to remind everyone just how important that is.
The signal specialist here is known as Mark Vision, aka Marcus Twitty, a Germany-based soldier and Christian rapper who woke up one morning wanting to rap and ended up writing an entire EP. His track about being a commo soldier is called “This Is The Life (S6 Anthem),” and it’ll be stuck in your head for days.
For those not in the know, the ‘S’ in S6 means staff and the ‘6’ means communications. In the case of the U.S. Army, the S6 is the signal officer at the battalion or brigade staff level. In the song, he also mentions a “25 Uniform,” referring to the Army MOS 25U, Signal Support Systems Specialist, who works with radio and data, provides technical support for computers and networks, and maintains comms-related terminals, equipment, and data.
The song goes through the most common questions an IT specialist comes across on a daily basis, like:
What’s the wifi password?
Why can’t I login?
Why is my account disabled?
Also mentioned in the song is why people ask him about their account status while he’s eating lunch, second lieutenants trying to throw their rank around to get better service, and that TKS, the leading cable and telecomms service provider for U.S. troops in Germany, set up their civilian wifi and not the Army – but soldiers come to him for help anyway.
This is hilarious because we all know it’s 100 percent true. Be good to your communications staff: These are the kind of things they have to put up with every day.
As a prior butter bar, I want you to know that I have no regrets about my career choice.
Sure, when I signed up for the military, I thought I was going to get to do a little less paperwork and a little more single handedly saving the entire world from terrorism for all time with my bravery, but hey, we all have our roles to play. Mine was to ensure my people were able to conduct mission ops — and deep down, I know that’s important, too.
I was very calculated about which branch I would serve in (Air Force, duh — I’m not a masochist) and how I would earn my commission (on the beaches of Southern California, like a BAMF). We trained on Fridays, and I was super into it (ROTC nerd to an extreme level) so I also attended optional Saturday morning training, which meant I missed out on the collegiate Thirsty Thursday, Friday night parties, and Saturday night shenanigans (because I was tired from all that training, bro).
So it really wasn’t until active duty that I realized how much lieutenants could party.
When we were at intel school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, we set up a “pub crawl” where everyone served signature drinks from their dorm rooms — everything from a shot of Jeremiah Weed to a game of flip cup to Vodka mixed with Airborne tablets (“to help our immune systems.”)
My first Gin and Tonic was consumed in the SCIF while cramming for the Navy test (does one really need to be sober to learn about boats? I mean ships…).
In Korea, the pilots partied so hard I started carrying a sharpie with me so I could make a tic-mark on my palm to track my drinks. Most nights left me waking up with a bar code across my palm.
But beyond the drinking, the butter bars in the office are more likely to liven up the office with pranks and jokes — and let’s not forget who keeps the snack bar full.
Butter bars have it great. They have enough training under their belts to feel confident about testing themselves but not enough experience for any serious responsibility. It’s a carefree time. The good ones acknowledge their shortcomings and learn quickly. The crappy ones… well, you can read some of their stories in the comments on this post (and add your own — it’s hilarious!).
The point is, butter bars are precious. They’re bright eyed and ready for a good time. They don’t know that the sh*t is about to get real. Look out for them. Show them the way.
3. They’re the future brass
Four-stars have to start somewhere, right? Their experiences as CGOs will have an effect on their leadership style down the road, so help them out. Teach them the mission. Remind them of what’s important. Show them the value of mutual respect.
They’ll remember it later and we’ll all be better for it.
And for all you 0-1s out there, work hard before you play hard. You might be at the bottom of the officer ranks now, but you’ve still got men and women who rely on you.
On April 10, 2021, Brantley Gilbert took time away from preparing for the Academy of Country Music Awards to be with three military families. To him, they are the real stars.
The virtual event was organized through a partnership with Operation Teammate, a nonprofit organization run by Air Force veteran Timothy Montjoy. When asked why it was important to him to take part in, Brantley was direct. “Service men and service women are heroes and I believe the families they leave behind in order to serve are the unsung heroes,” he explained. “They’re also making sacrifices to ensure our health and safety. I wanted to make sure they knew that we appreciate them just as much as we appreciate those in the uniform.”
Brantley’s grandfather and uncles all served in the Armed Forces, leaving a deeply ingrained appreciation and respect for the military. In fact, he and his wife regularly work with the Atlanta Humane Society to place service animals with veterans in need. When the opportunity to sit down with military families came up, Brantley said it was the least he could do.
Every April is dedicated to military children, who are often forgotten in the everyday struggles that military families face. Originally dedicated in 1986, it’s taken on a new life in recent years. Numerous studies have been conducted on the mental health impacts of America’s children of service members which have all demonstrated the need for more resources and organizations. It’s a fact that Montjoy was keenly aware of.
Operation Teammate was established in 2015 with the goal of showing children the benefits of being a part of a team and utilizing sports in their lives. For Montjoy, who had become a single dad after returning home from his last deployment, it was personal. “As my daughter and I grew up in the Air Force together, there were times where I would have to be away from her for extended periods of time and we recognized the need for more direct support during that time of separation for military children,” he explained.
Montjoy saw the need for something like this not just for his military child, but all of them. The beauty of this organization is that it’s one team that follows the military child wherever they go, an anchor in an uncertain and always-changing lifestyle. “The goal of our experiences is for the attending military children to learn from the success journeys of the community influencer and to be inspired to find their own path in life,” said Montjoy.
One of the goals of each event is to show military kids that they are seen and valued. “Mr. Brantley Gilbert clearly understands the sacrifices that military children go through and our event with Brantley resulted in our attending military children understanding that someone of influence appreciates and supports them 100 percent,” Montjoy shared.
The virtual event with Brantley had children from all ages and brought a lot of laughs, especially when he was told he was too old for jiu jitsu. “There were some great personalities in that group,” he said.
Humor and fun aside, sitting down with the military children really hit home for Brantley. “I have two kids of my own and I often leave them for days or weeks at a time on tour, and I know how much I miss them. And I know that’s incomparable to what these families go through,” he explained. “Being a military family is what I consider to be one of the biggest sacrifices you can make, and the least I can do is let them know they’re appreciated and supported.”
Though Brantley may assume what he did was small, it wasn’t. For kids and military children especially, being seen and valued can and is life-changing. “I hoped to let them know that we see everything that they go through and we’re grateful for them being so strong, being away from their mom or dad or sibling is a difficult thing to do,” he said. “I wanted to let them know that I have their back and I’d love to support them in any way that I can as a thank you.”
Montjoy echoed that sentiment. “While our experiences show appreciation to military children for their life of service, being able to provide a fun and interactive experience is the biggest reward,” he stated. “The smiles and excitement that the attending military children display, drives home that our experiences continue to have a lasting impact and inspire our military children to lead a positive life.”
UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!
Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!
Bobby Blackhat is a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s been playing harp for over 40 years.
After 27 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, which included serving as Military Aide to the President and being awarded the Coast Guard Medal for Heroism, Bobby started to pursue music professionally. He is a proud graduate of two Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) programs: Piano and Comedy Bootcamp.
“I love doing what I do because music allows me to get fingers poppin’, toes tappin’, hip shakin’, and faces smilin’. Through music I can bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I am a prime example that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and check an item off that pesky bucket list.”
For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!
It’s always going to be a tricky situation when the Russian Army and NATO allied armed forces are in the same fight. In the 1999 Kosovo War, such a situation could have sparked the all-out NATO-versus-Russia war the world had been hoping to avoid for 50-some years at that point. Good thing Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt was there to stop all the madness from taking hold over everyone’s better judgement.
No time for Stalin when you’re racing the Russians.
To be fair, he wasn’t yet Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Blunt quite yet. In 1999, he was still James Hillier Blount, a Royal Military Academy-trained British Army officer, and he was leading a reconnaissance troop ahead of the coming NATO peacekeeping operation in Kosovo to the airport at Pristina.
He led his armored troop all the way to capital city of Kosovo, only to find Russian troops already already captured the airport.
No one told General Strangelove the Russians weren’t the enemy.
For Russia, the NATO intervention in Kosovo was a stark reminder of how far they had fallen since the end of the Soviet Union. The Balkans were firmly in Russia’s sphere of influence but there was little the Russians could do about the NATO meddling in their backyard — except maybe join them a little.
The Russians sent a small, token unit of peacekeepers to Kosovo and the first thing they did was a capture the airport. When Gen. Wesley Clark, then NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, found out the Russians had beaten NATO to the punch, you might think his response would be mild, considering they essentially had the same mission and the Russians were no longer the Soviet Union.
He gave an order to retake the airport by force.
General Michael Jackson politely implored General Clark to beat it.
Think, for a moment, what would happen if a NATO armored column completely annihilated a 250-man Russian peacekeeping contingent with 30 armored vehicles over an airport in Kosovo. British General Mike Jackson, the commander of NATO’s Kosovo Force, knew exactly what would happen.
Instead, the British General flew in to Pristina and shared a flask of whiskey with the Russian general of the small force, even though Clark was also on his way into Pristina. Meanwhile, Russian airbases and paratroopers were getting ready for any escalation that might come next. Thousands of Russian troops were on standby to kick off World War III.
Jackson and Clark met at the NATO headquarters in the capital of neighboring Macedonia. He reminded the Supreme Allied Commander that the Russians helped broker the peace deal that ended the war and would be assisting the peacekeeping afterward.
The British, instead of murdering potential allies, simply used the armor to isolate the airfield but didn’t even block the runway. Blunt, the commanding officer of an armored troop, with a parachute regiment and some SAS in reserve, instead called for instructions and held the position while the generals decided what to do — and what not to do. After a few days without water or food, the Russians offered to share responsibility for the airport.
But even if Jackson wanted to carry out Clark’s orders, Blunt — from a military family with more than a thousand years of service — would rather have taken a court martial than carry them out, starting a world war.
In the end, no one carried out Clark’s orders to recapture the airfield from the Russians by force. In fact, Clark left his posting as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander a little earlier than expected after the incident. Blunt served two more years in the British Army and recorded his first album just a few months later.
Thirty-five years ago today John Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman — an avid Beatles fan — in the entryway of the Dakota apartments located in New York City’s Upper Westside. In tribute social media is lighting up with interpretations of Lennon’s message of peace that came in various forms during his artistic career, most famously in his songs “Imagine” and “War is Over (if You Want It).”
But John Lennon was born in England in 1940, the early part of World War II. His father was a merchant seaman, always gone on convoy runs, and — like the rest of his fellow countrymen, Lennon learned to hate the Luffewaffe and love the RAF as he watched airplanes fly overhead and heeded the wail of air raid sirens. He may have preached peace, but there’s no denying he understood the value of a strong national defense. His success was a product of it. Ironically enough, The Beatles honed their musical presentation — the one they would use to wow America on the Ed Sullivan Show a few years later — in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, which had been a major industrial hub of the Third Reich a mere 17 years or so earlier.
There are several pieces of evidence of Lennon’s military inclinations. When we was a teenager he was a member of the Air Training Corps (sort of a British version of the Civil Air Patrol) according to a report by NME.
In 1966 Lennon played the role of Private Gripweed in “How I Won the War,” directed by Lennon’s good friend Richard Lester:
The Beatles movie “Help” (also directed by Richard Lester) had a few references to warfare including an all out war scene in an open field involving British infantry and armored units.
And don’t forget the Lennon-penned Beatles’ song “Revolution,” that included the lyrics “when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out . . . in.”
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?
Ask any vet — music and combat go hand in hand. Whether pounding the drums of war, blaring the bugle calls, or recording songs after combat, music has underscored the good, the bad, and the ugly of warfare throughout human history.
“Live From Iraq” is a Rap album actually made by combat veterans in a theater of war.
It was produced and conceived by U.S. Army Sergeant Neal Saunders, an M1 Abrams tank crewman of the 1st Cav’s 112 Task Force, along with several of his buddies.
They were fighting around Baghdad and Sadr City in 2005. When not out on missions, Big Neal and his crew would record songs in a makeshift studio, using their paychecks to order equipment from a Sam Ash music store in Philadelphia.
It was the only Sam Ash that would ship to their APO address.
“Live From Iraq” takes the listener on a harrowing, poignant journey of a year-long deployment. There’s no boasting of riches, hot girls, or glorified violence — just words of truth with socially relevant lyrics:
“This is up armor kits and bulletproof windows/ We sleep with body armor blankets and Kevlar pillows,” are some lyrics from the title track, “Live From Iraq.”
The album samples a troops-in-contact moment on the song, “Lace Your Boots,” with the lyrics: “But it’s too late to switch/ After this full metal jacket grabs ’em/ Look we told ’em this was war/ And we told ’em we get at ’em/ This is war…”
“Reality Check” over a poignant piano riff calls out those who like to play soldier in style and attitude, but have never walked the walk: “Wanna be soldiers
Follow me I’ll take you to see some Marines in Fallujah/ And I hope you make it/ Or come visit my theater/ Shit I’ll show you some places/ But I really don’t think/ That y’all wanna go where I’ll take you…”
Big Neal has said that this album is the blood of soldiers and all that they have seen and done. One could argue that “Live From Iraq” is the original Battle Mix, one that still resonates today with many of our soldiers deployed.