No one seems to know who wrote the lyrics to the hymn, but they have shifted slightly over time to reflect the evolution of the Corps. In 1942, the final changes were made to reflect the addition of aviation to the Marine Corps mission. The first verse’s fourth line, “On the land as on the sea” became “In the air, on land, and sea.”
3. It specifically mentions battles from the 1800s
The opening line “From the Halls of Montezuma” refers to the capture of Mexico City and the Castle of Chapultepec in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.
4. The American flag was first flown in an overseas victory at Tripoli
“To the Shores of Tripoli” pays homage to the First Barbary War, when U.S Marines helped capture the Tripolitan city of Derna in modern day Libya in 1805. It was the first time Old Glory was raised in victory on foreign soil.
5. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Marines
The lyrics aptly reflect the spirit of the Corps, mentioning the “fight for right and freedom,” the importance of honor, and even a bit of branch rivalry: “If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes; they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.”
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:
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about how he went from wrapping tacos to rapping music lyrics.
“I joined the military because I was working at Taco Bell and ironically as a [taco] wrapper,” TMR recalls. “I wanted more, so I became the manager. I [wanted to go] the same route as the [Taco Bell] founder did and become a Marine.”
If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”
Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.
After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.
The Marine Rapper ‘s Action Figure is a bouncy, hyper, fast-paced journey that chronicles the making of his identity. Each song is accompanied by a music video that will be released weekly on YouTube starting Sept. 29.
TMR’s Action Figure will be available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Tidal and everywhere where digital music is sold Sept. 29. In addition, a limited run of signed physical copies and merchandise will be exclusively available on TMR’s website: themarinerapper.com
Check out The Marine Rapper‘s video below for a taste of what you can expect when his record drops Sept. 29 for yourself.
Whether it’s the barracks on base, a berthing area aboard the ship, or a plywood building at a remote outpost in unfriendly lands, living in close quarters with folks you don’t know all that well is a big part of military life. But there are ways to expedite the process of getting acquainted by picking up on the clues your fellow service members are putting out all around you – like their taste in music, for instance.
So sneak a peek at their smartphones and see what they’re jamming on Spotify, Pandora, Beats, iTunes, or whatever. If you see any of these 7 artists (or the associated genres) here’s what your room-, bunk-, squad-, or shipmates are telling you:
1. The Black Keys
“I’m a new school take on an old school vibe, which is to say I’m at once low maintenance and high gloss. I’m an achiever but not in that obnoxious kiss-ass way that would give me a reputation among the others in the command. I like sports, but I’m not a bro. I’m in a stable relationship with a person back home and plan on getting married, but not until the time is right for both of us. I have two years of college under my belt and will work on finishing the rest in my spare time before my enlistment is up. After that I’ll get out and pretend like none of this every happened. Oh . . . and I’m smarter than you, but I’ll never say it.”
“You’ve probably already picked up on my intensity through my body language and the tone of my voice, although I haven’t said very much to you. I was one of the cool kids in the early high school years but got sick of those people — the meathead jocks and their vain girlfriends — so I pretty much spent the rest of the time with my best friend reading Dave Eggers entire body of work and making chalk doodles on sidewalks after dark using a flashlight. I had one boyfriend who broke up with me right after he stole my virginity. I got drunk after that and started to get a tattoo of his name to try and mess with his head or something, but I chickened out because it hurt so bad, so all I have is a small black dot near the top of my left bun. I knew nothing about the military when I joined but did it because it’s exactly what my parents thought I would never do. Now that I’m here I hate it. And — don’t take this personally — I’m pretty sure I hate you.”
“I got these tattoos before I joined and want to get a few more regardless of what the rules are. (They keep changing anyway.) I had planned on going to college, but before I got accepted anywhere I got busted for spray-painting graffiti on the side of one of the overpasses in my hometown. My dad lawyer’d up, and my record was wiped clean, but he gave me one option at that point: Join the military. So here I am. Funny thing is I don’t mind it; in fact, I’m actually enjoying it. I told the dudes back home that I was only staying for one enlistment, if that even, but truth is I’ll probably wind up being a lifer. I’m a good friend who knows how to hook a buddy up. I also know about paying assholes back, so don’t be one.”
4. Luke Bryan
“It won’t surprise you based on my build and the intensity of my workouts that I was the quarterback of my high school football team. I went to junior college an hour from my hometown in Texas, but had one too many blowouts with the coach and got thrown off the team. After that I started to party and stopped going to class. I flunked out and didn’t want to go back home, so I joined the military. I come off as a super-friendly, semi-religious guy but really I’m a massive backstabber, especially if things aren’t going my way. I’m very competitive and hate to lose at anything, including making rank ahead of my peers. I talk about trucks all the time but my main ride is a Yaris the insurance money bought after I crashed my F-150 a few years back. I can line dance, which makes me a good wingman in certain bars. I’ll listen to your problems with an earnest expression, but really I don’t care, and if you need me for a crisis I’ll probably have a conflict that’ll prevent me from helping in any meaningful way. Sorry. (Not really.)”
5. Maroon 5
“I was student council vice president and a member of the National Honor Society and had oodles of promise but I kind of gagged on it and couldn’t deal with the weight of my family’s expectations, so after working as a sales associate at Target for a few months I joined the military. The recruiter told me about the great education programs and how I could get into officer training pretty easily based on my profile, but it turns out that was all bullshit, of course, and I’m stuck with this lame MOS that I kinda feel is beneath me but will do a good job with anyway. The command will tempt me with advanced schooling and other incentives based on my cheery disposition and positive outlook, but I’ll get out after my first term and give college another try using my GI Bill benefit. Oh, and I listen to Maroon 5 because I really don’t like music all that much.”
6. Ed Sheeran
“I joined the military after a traumatic breakup with my fiance because I needed massively new surroundings in my life (and I thought the move would also be a nice “you can’t hurt me” signal to my ex) but halfway through boot camp I had massive regrets, and I freaked to the point they pulled me out and sent me to the doc who told me that I was fine and that stress was a natural part of life and that I needed to stay hydrated. After that I heard whispers from the others that I was a drama queen, which is a total lie cause I hate drama and have posted a bunch of memes on Facebook about that fact. I’ve been in three relationships since I got to this command seven months ago, and all of them ended kinda ugly, mostly because they didn’t respect me for my mind and the fact that I listen to song lyrics and get what they mean. And I need a hug.”
“I joined up after high school first thing because my dad and uncle had both served and they said the military was a great place to get started in life. Made sense to me. Otherwise I would have wound up doing a lot of nothing and that always leads to bad things. I have a thuggish exterior like I’m all don’t-give-a-shit but deep-down inside I cry a little bit when they yell at me for what the First Sergeant calls ‘screwing the pooch’ or whatever. (I don’t really cry.) Plus, I’m trying my best, yo. If it’s so easy why don’t you do it? (That’s just me thinking that, not saying that out loud or nothing.) But, like I said before, this military thing makes sense to me. It’s all good. I’m down with it.”
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.
Other than the National Anthem, there really isn’t another song out there that evokes the pride of country like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” So when the iconic singer teamed up with the United States Air Force band to perform it during COVID-19, it’s no surprise the rendition is truly breathtaking.
Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)
Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic
While Greenwood never served, he has long supported the troops and military community. In a 2000 interview with Military.com, Greenwood was asked why he thought the song has such a powerful message for the military. He responded:
“I knew we had a song that touched the heart of the public. I knew that it was a song that gave proper salute to the military and its job. I knew that it honored those that had died, and I knew it made people stand up. I actually wrote those words: “I’d proudly stand up and defend her still today,” [meaning] even though pride had been gone in the past, it’s back and we should stand up at any time and defend this free country. So those who are away from home, it has much more impact on. I am a world traveler as well, and have been with the USO for 15 of the world USO tours with my celebrity cast. It does mean much more. You’re in another country where you’re subject to attack, and you long for the protection of the United States and all the things you find familiar about it.”
Here’s to you, Mr. Greenwood. Thanks for continuing to serve all of us.
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.
Love letters from girls back at home are colloquially known as “Dear John” letters…but they’re not always true. In 1972, Jim Croce released “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels),” a song about a one-sided conversation with a telephone operator. The singer is trying to find an old flame who seems to have run off to Los Angeles on a tryst with his old friend. The caller expresses his disbelief at being betrayed by someone he once trusted. It’s an all-too-common story, especially among those serving in the military — Jody ran off with the singer’s girl.
In fact, Jody is exactly what inspired Croce to write the song, except it wasn’t about his old flame, it was about everybody else’s on the base where he was stationed, back in the days when a phone call cost a dime.
Operator, well could you help me place this call? See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded She’s living in L.A. with my best old ex-friend Ray A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated
Croce enlisted in the Army National Guard in 1966 with hopes of being able to avoid active service and a potential trip to Vietnam. He ended up serving on active duty for a few months, having to go through basic military training two times. Explaining that he was not good with authority, he once said he would be totally prepared if he “had to go to war with a mop.”
Still, he had a unique experience in the Army, one he probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. Some years later, his wife relayed the story of Jim waiting in the rain at the Post Exchange, listening to soldiers make calls on the payphones. He would overhear many, many “Dear John” stories as the soldiers called their ex-lovers to find out if the fateful letters they’d received were serious.
Jim and Ingrid Croce during Jim’s Army service.
Croce, who died in 1973, remarked:
There wasn’t a phone booth; it was just stuck up on the side of the building and there were about 200 guys in each line waiting to make a phone call back home to see if their ‘Dear John’ letter was true, and with their raincoat over their heads covering the telephone and everything, and it really seemed that so many people were going through the same experience, going through the same kind of change, and to see this happen, especially on something like the telephone and talking to a long-distance operator, this kinda registered.
Later, after Croce left the military, he worked in a bar and noticed the same phenomenon happening at the bar’s payphone. People always wanted to check up on someone but end up talking to the operator.
By the end of the song, the caller tells the operator he’s over the whole thing, but it’s clear that the caller isn’t. After all, nothing is going to change in one phone call. Jody worked fast, even in 1972.
As far back as he can remember, Sean Gilfillan has had two distinct halves to his personality: a button-down, achievement-oriented practical side, and an artistic, musical side. And while most people with similar dualities accept that the former will most likely pay the bills while the latter is, at best, a hobby, Gilfillan never did. And that refusal has resulted in an unorthodox career path, one that generates income while nurturing his drive to be creative.
Gilfillan continued his family’s history of service in the U.S. Army by attending Norwich University on a ROTC scholarship and then accepting a commission as an artillery officer. After going through training at Fort Sill in 2003 he was assigned to the First Armored Division and deployed to Iraq. After two months in-country, he was assigned to A Co., 1/6 Infantry Battalion as their Fire Support Officer.
“I was fire support, but I didn’t have much to do with that specialty in central Baghdad,” he said. “So I kind of morphed into infantry.”
He worked closely with the locals performing what he described as “hybrid civil affairs” in the crucial Korada district. Right as his unit was due to rotate back to the states, they were extended for an additional three months. And the day they were extended seven of his fellow soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber driving a car loaded with explosives.
That loss affected him deeply. “You start questioning the randomness of war,” he said. “But at that point, I decided I always wanted to be connected to the military in some way.”
After rotating out of the war zone he spent a year in Germany. During that time, he figured he’d done what he’d set out to do as an Army officer, and in 2006 he transitioned to the civilian world and wound up back his hometown in Rhode Island.
“I literally had no idea what I wanted to do beyond something cool in entertainment,” he admitted.
Gilfillan went on unemployment for a few months as he hatched a plan, one driven by the attitudes of the civilians with whom he came in contact.
“People were asking me crazy questions about going to war,” he said. “And when I answered I could see they couldn’t have been less interested.”
So, with the encouragement of his new wife Sidney, he did something suitably unorthodox: He launched To The Fallen Records [now To The Fallen Entertainment], “the world’s first military record label,” as he put it. The name came from a large tattoo he’d had inked across his back a few years before in remembrance of the seven soldiers his unit lost on that tragic day in Iraq.
To The Fallen (TTF) exclusively featured veteran artists, primarily in the hip hop and country genres. The company was featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, and The New York Times. The word was getting out, and Gilfillan was confident he’d started a viable business.
TTF released a couple of compilation CDs and sold them online. Orders were brisk at first, but then the bottom fell out.
“Turns out 2009 was the absolute worst time to start a record label,” Gilfillan said.
Social media and streaming services like Spotify and Pandora were radically changing how consumers purchased music. Nearly overnight CDs became an archaic format.
TTF’s distributor went bankrupt, so even if orders came in, Gilfillan had no way to get the CDs out. He was shouldering a massive amount of debt and running out of time.
Help came in the form of a phone call out of the blue from a sergeant major he’d served with in Iraq. The Pentagon had a reserve billet open for a counter-insurgency expert. Gilfillan was qualified by virtue of the civil affairs work he’d done during the war, and he needed the job. He said yes.
Gilfillan worked in the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Office, learning the government’s budgeting process. In the course of doing the job he also learned a lot about how Morale, Welfare, and Recreation works, both good and bad.
From his experience with TTF Records, Gilfillan knew what it took to book top-flight talent. He saw that because there wasn’t any centralized way for commands to put their local events together, troops weren’t always getting the talent they deserved and the government was paying too much for the acts they were getting.
“Only a few active duty people understand it even though it’s a $10 billion industry,” he said.
In 2010 Gilfillan left the Pentagon job, and, after consulting with several financial experts, he put his learnings into action as To The Fallen Entertainment.
TTFE pursued two main missions at once: Convincing installations that centralizing the way they booked entertainment would get them higher levels of talent at less cost, and becoming an approved DoD contractor.
The latter happened, and soon thereafter TTFE was contracted to provide the U.S. Marine Corps with 50 shows across the world. Gilfillan landed acts like David Allan Grier, Gabriel Inglesias, Iliza Shlesinger, and Bubba Sparks.
Along the way, TTFE incorporated best practices for the company while doing the same for clients. At the same time, Gilfillan had his eye on bigger deals like the U.S. Army’s 5-year entertainment contract.
“We checked all of the boxes to land that contract,” Gilfillan said. “Diversity, size, scope — that’s what TTFE’s first four years were all about.”
TTFE won the Army’s contract, and that gave Gilfillan the confidence to hire four employees and set up his headquarters in San Antonio.
“We’re still small, but we want to be big,” he said. “The trick for us is to simultaneously be trusted insiders and expert outsiders.”
Gilfillan’s goal is to grow TTFE into a $25-50 million company by proving its worth to more installations, showing how they can gain efficiencies across DoD.
“[DoD] has a massive enterprise advantage,” he said. “TTFE wants to help them leverage it.”
The future is bright, but in the face of business success, Gilfillan is careful to maintain his focus.
“The sole mission of TTFE is to boost the morale of troops and families on installations,” he said. “We want bigger talent and bigger shows for them.”
TTFE has now done hundreds of shows across all of the services. Next year the company is launching their “BaseFEST Program” a partnership between TTFE and installations to create what Gilfillan calls “their own unique versions of Coachella.”
Gilfillan’s advice for veterans transitioning behind him is to think big.
“In your own vision of where you want to be in life it’s important to have an end state in mind,” he said. “I wanted to be someone who’s doing big stuff in the entertainment industry.”
As well as a general goal, Gilfillan also says that vets in the process of getting out need to cultivate skills relevant to the industries they’re pursuing.
“If you want to go into tech, you have to know how to code,” he said.
And more than anything, Gilfillan recommends that vets not give into the fear that comes with leaving the structure of the military.
“I was half a million dollars in debt at one point,” he said. “But I succeeded because I was willing to fail.”
Editor’s Note: To The Fallen Entertainment is proud to present Base*FEST Powered by USAA, a new music festival that launched this Independence Day weekend at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. It’s hitting NAS Pensacola next, and it prides itself on providing a free music festival experience to active duty military, veterans, and their local community.
Both Manson and Billy Corgan come from military backgrounds: “We can speak to the personal effect that yes, we can be artists and yes, we can play these roles in public, but at the end of the day, if we don’t serve all our communities – [and] veterans are an integral part of our communities – we’re not really doing service as artists or as people,” Corgan told Rolling Stone.
The tour begins in Concord, California on July 7th.
First, as is often the case with women, you wouldn’t expect her to be a military veteran (let alone a Marine), but she served as an Ammunition Technician in Iraq. She also holds multiple college degrees (something you wouldn’t expect from a Marine — zing!) and is a mother of an 8-year-old (and her daughter, by the way, knows the lyrics to Drowning Pools’ “Bodies” and headbangs accordingly).
Probably what’s the most refreshing when you meet Mondesir is how fun-loving and energetic she is. If you’re a fan of Season 2 of John Cena’s “American Grit,” then you already know this.
“It’s pretty hot in Iraq so sometimes things get really tough and you need that extra motivation, and music just does it.”
In her Battle Mix video, she even makes the heat of Iraq sound not so bad. She also talks about how she was privy to Usher’s 2004 hit “Yeah” before the rest of her buddies at boot camp, and I grin every time I watch it.
Fun fact: she’s the only one of WATM’s Battle Mix veterans we had to censor. Just another great Chloe Mondesir surprise.
These veterans served in different branches and different conflicts, but one thing unites them — their love of music.
We Are The Mighty and USAA flew the Mission: Music finalists to the world-famous Ocean Way Studio in Nashville for a recording session where we took the opportunity to chat about the music that influenced them along the way.
U.S. Marine JP Guhns likened songs to little checkmarks — little memories — along his military career, while husband and wife duo Home Bru brought up how music connected them to their family.
Meanwhile, Steve Schneider of Jericho Hill related to Thrice’s “Stare at the Sun,” a tune about looking for something to believe in. Many veterans can relate to the feeling of questioning what they’re fighting for, and for this soldier, music helped him come up with an answer.
“There are days in the military where you might not have a whole lot to do, but they’re gonna find stuff for you to do,” laughed U.S. Navy veteran McClain Potter as he explained why “Everyday is Exactly The Same” from Nine Inch Nails is on his Battle Mix.