This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen - We Are The Mighty
MUSIC

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
3 Doors Down perform for the troops. (Photo: Sean Gilfillan)


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.”

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Sean Gilfillan in Baghdad in 2003. (Photo: Sean Gilfillan)

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.”

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Tattoo on Sean Gilfillan’s back, a tribute to the soldiers he served with who were killed in Iraq. (Photo: Sean Gilfillan)

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.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
To The Fallen Records official logo.

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.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Comedian George Lopez with Air Force airmen. (Photo: Sean Gilfillan)

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.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Country mega-stars Little Big Town play for the troops. (Photo: Sean Gilfillan)

“[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.

Lists

10 awesome songs we listened to while ‘Bangin’ in Sangin’

Gearing up to head out on a vital mission, clearing operation, or standard foot patrol to take down enemy forces comes with a lot of excitement and no shortage of anxiety.


You can’t exactly watch TV to take your mind off things, so music plays a key factor in lifting spirits and keeping Marines hungry for the fight.

Related: 4 times armies blasted music to intimidate and infuriate their enemies

My brothers in 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and I faced many major obstacles while serving during our combat deployment in Sangin, Afghanistan.

So check out the music playlist that kept our morale high and our motivation pumping as we were “Bangin’ in Sangin.”

1. DMX – “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem”

Great while setting up a vehicle check point.

(DMXVEVO, Youtube)

2. Outkast – “Bombs over Baghdad”

An awesome song to play while dropping mortars on the bad guy’s position.

(GeneralGibbs, Youtube)

3. Katy Perry – “California Gurls”

Best song for Hollywood Marines to listen to when they think about them California girls.

Don’t judge — you know she’s catchy as hell. (KatyPerryVEVO, YouTube)

4. Ludacris – “Roll Out”

When you’re “Oscar Mike” in two minutes and need that extra burst of motivation.

(LudacrisVEVO, YouTube)

5. AC/DC – “Thunderstuck”

Best to listen to after a productive enemy engagement. OO-RAH!

(acdcVEVO, YouTube)

6. E-40 – “Go Hard or Go Home”

Awesome to listen to at the gym or when you want to make a legit deployment dance video.

(Alex Burock, YouTube)

7. Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”

A good song for all occasions.

(SurvivorVEVO, Youtube)

8. Trick Daddy – “Let’s Go!”

When you’re beggin’ the bad guys to shoot at you.

(HQmvideo, YouTube)

9. Seether – “Out of my way”

Perfect right before gearing up for a patrol or clearing operation.

(Randomgunz, YouTube)

10. Kanye West – “Stronger”

When you survived another day in the suck. (That beard though.)

(KanyeWestVEVO, YouTube) 

Here’s the playlist in one convenient location. You’re welcome.

What music did you listen to while taking down the bad guys? Comment below.
Articles

Here’s how ‘Taps’ got its name

Everyone who has attended a military function or visited a base has heard the “Taps” melody fill the air.


Traditionally performed live on a bugle or trumpet, “Taps” is one of the more popular songs, and one that tends to quiet spectators as they solemnly bow their heads.

But few people know the history behind the song or the patriotic meaning behind the lyrics.

Related: This man honors the military by playing ‘Taps’ for his neighbors every day

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Chief Musician Guy L. Gregg, plays taps during a Memorial Day service at Brookwood American Cemetery.
(Photo by MC2 Jennifer L. Jaqua/Released)



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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.”

Lyrics

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.

Articles

This song will give you a flashback to your time in the service

From the time the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, infantry Marines are out on the range or catching some much-needed shut-eye — usually in an uncomfortable place.


While on active duty, they’ll lament their decision-making history while hauling heavy combat loads across the rough and unforgiving terrain or missing important events back home or, you know, taking fire from terrorists.

But at the end of the day, ask any Marine and they’ll tell you: all that blood and sweat they shed was worth it. Not only that, their shared hardships become the foundation of some epic memories.

Related: This Marine rapper spits lyrics that veterans know all too well

Life after the military can be a challenging and confusing time as many veterans attempt to find themselves. For the Marine-turned-rapper known as Fitzy Mess, using his passion for music to help tell the stories of his unique experiences is a way of easing the transition.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Fitzy Mess performs on stage wearing the legendary silkies. (Source: Fitzy Mess’ Facebook)

“To tell the truth its fun as hell for me, puking up booze while my platoon sergeant yells at me,” Fitzy Mess raps.

We’ve all been there, Fitzy Mess. We’ve all been there…

Also Read: 9 things you should know before becoming a Marine infantry officer

Check out Fitzy Mess‘ video below to hear the lyrics that reflect on his time serving in the Marine Corps — we bet the veterans out there will find themselves relating:

(Fitzy Mess, YouTube)
Articles

This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

“Forward, the Light Brigade! ‘Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred.”

This was part of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem about how much of a cluster f*** the Battle of Balaclava truly ended up being. It is also the subject of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper.”


The song directly states, “And as I lay forgotten and alone. Without a tear I draw my parting groan,” as a tribute to unnamed troops who were killed that day. In the many years that have since passed, letters have been discovered of first hand testimony of the ill-fated battle.

From 1853-1856, French, British, and Ottoman forces fought against the Russian Empire in the Crimean War. Conflict began after the Russians occupied Ottoman territory in modern day Romania. Within this war, the most infamous battle was at Balaclava where “The Charge of the Light Brigade” took place.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Under the command of Maj. General James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, the light cavalry brigade consisted of roughly 670 men. Lord Raglan, the Commander of the British forces, intended to prevent Russian troops from maintaining their guns on Ottoman positions.

 

Related: The story of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ makes your officers look pretty smart

There are many historical discrepancies on who ordered the actual charge, but the fact remains: the cavalrymen charged directly into enemy cannons, killing roughly a sixth of brigade and another sixth wounded, totaling 271 casualties.

It was later discovered that the Russians numbered 5,240 strong.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Officer of the 17th Lancers (Painting via Cranston Fine Arts)

An unknown officer of the 17th Lancers wrote in a recently discovered letter, “We all knew the thing was desperate before we started, and it was even worse than we thought. However there was no hesitation, down our fellows went at a gallop — through a fire in front and on both flanks, which emptied our saddles and knocked over our horses by scores. I do not think that one man flinched in the whole Brigade — though every one allows that so hot a fire was hardly ever seen.”

The loyalty of the British cavalry became well respected. The London Gazette wrote of the charge weeks after. While the commanders became despised, the troops were revered for their courage in the face of certain death.

Private Pearson of the 4th Light Dragoons wrote to his parents, “I shall never forget the 25th of October — shells, bullets, cannonballs, and swords kept flying around us. Dear Mother, every time I think of my poor comrades it makes my blood run cold, to think how we had to gallop over the poor wounded fellows lying on the field of battle, with anxious looks for assistance — what a sickening scene!”

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
(Photo by Roger Fenton via Wikimedia)

Roger Fenton is regarded as one of the first war photographers and was present at the charge. Fenton refused to photograph dead or wounded as to not upset Victorian Era sensibilities, but he did capture troops and many moments after.

This photo that J. Paul Getty Museum called “one of the most well-known images of war” shows the aftermath of cannonballs that littered the landscape. The photograph titled “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has been on exhibition with the over 300 other images of the Crimean War

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
(Photo by Roger Fenton via Library of Congress)

Today, the Light Brigade is remembered in the song “The Trooper.” Bruce Dickinson frequently on tour wears the British “red coat” smock as he waves a war-torn Union Jack. There has never been a more appropriate time to form a wall of death in the mosh pit.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Check out Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” here, in all its glory:

MUSIC

7 mandatory songs for your PT playlist

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.

Also read: 6 military cadences you will never forget

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.

Check out the rest of our PT Moto II Battle Mix right here:

MUSIC

Navy vet ‘Full Metal Jackie’ Carrizosa is way cooler than you

Navy veteran Jacqueline Carrizosa is awesome.


She was a rescue swimmer in the Navy, she’s a motocross athlete, and she knows how to use a gun — so yeah, she can more than hold her own.

We Are The Mighty sat her down to find out about her taste in music, and it was everything we’d hoped for and more.

Carrizosa has the kind of self-confidence that lets her to talk about her many successes and adventures, still with the perfect blend of self-deprecating humor. You get a taste of this when she gives a sample of her Atreyu scream, right after nonchalantly mentioning her “50-cals” and right before laughing at herself.

“In my mind, music definitely has a strong power and it has the ability to move people for the better.”

Check out her full video right here!

And for your listening pleasure, the
“Full Metal Jackie” Battle Mix:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why so many veterans turn to music after war

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


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

There are music therapists at VA hospitals across the country.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Vietnam War veteran and Guitars for Vets volunteer James Robledo places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Guitars for Vets photo)

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

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

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

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

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

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
It costs $200 to put a veteran through the program, and all the funding comes from donations. (Guitars for Vets photo)

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC

Why musicians can’t make videos aboard Navy ships

The USS Missouri has a long and storied history. She earned numerous battle stars for her service in three American wars. She was the site where Japan signed its formal surrender, ending World War II. The last battleship produced by the United States, she was decommissioned in 1955 and reactivated in 1984 to support the Gulf War. She even made appearances in the 1992 movie Under Siege and in 2012’s Battleship.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Even when you put actors on a Navy ship, the first thing they learn to do is skate.

Its most infamous moment came in 1989, when Cher sang “If I Could Turn Back Time” in front of the ship’s crew wearing a one-piece bathing suit and stockings that didn’t leave much to the imagination.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
At least she was wearing a jacket.

 

Almost no one but the director (and, presumably, Cher) was happy with the video. According to the book “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution,” MTV pretty much banned the video outright because of the visibility of Cher’s butt cheeks. The network later rolled that back and would play it only after 9pm – though MTV still pushed the envelope as “Safe Harbor” programming for broadcasters in the U.S. began at 10pm.

See how safe the harbor is in the music video below.

The outfit, of course, completely surprised the U.S. Navy, who had given their blessing for the shoot. Once he saw the singer’s costume on the set of the video, the Navy’s entertainment liaison for the Missouri asked the director to choose something else for Cher to wear. The director, of course, declined.

 

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
The crew seems fine with it.

After all the flak the Navy took for the video, it decreed that never again would musicians be allowed to film music videos on ships of the U.S. Navy. In an attempt to placate the Navy, Cher later filmed parts of the song in a less-revealing outfit and without the crew present, but the new video was too little, too late.

For Cher, the song completely revived her 20-plus year long career. It was her second consecutive number one hit on the Billboard charts and was a certified gold record.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out the new hard rock EP from the vets of Jericho Hill

Jericho Hill is a band created by Army veteran Steve Schneider and Navy corpsman McClain Potter. They began writing music together in 2012 while attending college, bonding over their military experiences.


True to form, they’ve just released a new EP that touches on themes of anger, mental health, and losing comrades and loved ones.

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Jericho Hill in Nashville, Tennessee, recording a track for Mission: Music, a music competition for veterans and their families. Jericho Hill made it to the finals after a nation-wide search. (Image courtesy of USAA and We Are The Mighty)

Loss comes up a lot for Jericho Hill — as it does for many veterans. One of their traditions during their shows is to dedicate a song to the fallen.

The EP, named Dvda@ the BB, contains three songs that demonstrate their diversity within the hard rock genre:

Devil in Disguise shows a bit of attitude with a taunting tempo and lyrics like “I’m from the land of the wicked ones, and I’ve come out to play.”

The second track, Fuel to the Fire, amps up the intensity both in instrumentals and tone: “You’re only adding fuel to the fire. Tonight we light the funeral pyre.”

Finally, there’s Sins of the Son, a mellow piece that starts with a confession and continues with questions: “What do you get out of running away? I don’t know.”

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Jericho Hill vets from left to right: Steve Schneider (U.S. Army), McClain Potter (U.S. Navy).

Jericho Hill is currently hustling, playing gigs in the Pacific Northwest, and planning their full album. Check them out on Facebook and let them know what you think of their new tracks.

Speaking of which, the EP is on Spotify (or other streaming services like iTunes, YouTube, and Pandora). We’ve also embedded it right here for you, because we’re cool like that:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine will make you want to let the bodies hit the floor

U.S. Marine Chloe Mondesir is not in any way predictable.


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.

Check out her interview here:

And you can catch her full Battle Mix right here:

Articles

She loves her rifle…and this killer playlist

Editor’s note: Kayla Williams is an Army war vet and author of Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army. This list originally appeared on her blog.


This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
The author (right) rockin’ her rifle while tooling around Iraq back in the day.

When I was speaking at a university a few years ago, a student who DJ’d at the local college radio station and had read my book asked me to come on as a guest. He had me put together a list of music I listened to in Iraq, and then interviewed me between songs. It was a really cool experience for me to revisit my deployment through music.

This isn’t limited to my time in Iraq, but is evocative of both my deployment and homecoming. Here it is:

1. Live, “Mental Jewelry”

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

I started listening to Live in high school and have fond memories of seeing them play. For some reason, the lyrics came into my mind often in Iraq, always making me feel a little melancholy.

2. Bad Religion, “The Process of Belief”

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

This album came out while I was at DLI, and I listened to it throughout the summer of 2002 while I was at AIT in Texas. Once we got to Iraq, this song in particular made me ache.

3. “Story of My Life,” Social Distortion, Social Distortion

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

This is one of my favorite albums. Went to see them play in Dallas the summer of 2002 – and spent the whole time feeling a little alienated from civilians. As for this particular song, I left my hometown when I was 15, and every time I’ve gone back have felt that weird sensation of my old neighborhood not being the same. That got even stronger after I joined the Army. I like how this song captures a particular feeling of frustration.

4. “So What,” Ministry, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

I was angry as a teenager, and spent a lot of time angry while I was in the Army, too. This is a great song to be really pissed off to. (Random aside: I saw the movie this song has samples from on Mystery Science Theater 3000 once, which was awesome. It’s totally absurd, you should check it out: The Violent Years.)

5. “Holiday in Cambodia,” Dead Kennedys

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

So there isn’t a lot of DK on Spotify that I could find. The song I wanted to put was “Life Sentence” (the lyrics “you don’t do what you want to but you do the same thing every day” could describe half my time in the Army!), but this is a good one, too. Fits in with the theme of anger.

6. “Jaded,” Operation Ivy,” Operation Ivy

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

As angry as I got, I never gave up those hopeful kernels, and still clung to that conviction that I could make the world a better place. “Sound System” is another good one off that album, about how music can bring you back up when you feel shitty.

7. “Cactus,” Pixies, Surfer Rosa

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

I have no idea why this particular Pixies song is the one that I got totally fixated on in Iraq. The mention of the desert? Who knows.

8. “Then She Did,” Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

When I was younger and, um, enjoyed experimenting with mind-altering substances, the song “Three Days” was what I loved the most – it took me on this whole mental odyssey. But in Iraq I fell in love with this one, a more reserved and introspective one.

9. “In the Arms of Sleep,” The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

I would listen to this one over and over and over in Iraq, longing to … be there, have those feelings.

10. “I Know, Huh?,” The Vandals, Hitler Bad, Vandals Good

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

This reminds me of the giddy, heady, happy days of being just home from Iraq, before the bad parts of reintegration kicked in. I have memories of driving around with Zoe singing along with this, being goofy and ridiculous.

11. “8 Mile,” Eminem, 8 Mile

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen

When things started to get really shitty, I would listen to this song (oh, so cheesy! I know!) and tell myself I could push on for just a little longer and couldn’t give up.

Listen to the playlist:

MUSIC

7 Air Force song facts that will make you want to go off into the wild blue yonder

Informally referred to as “The Air Force Song,” the composition “U.S. Air Force” is a work of lyrical beauty and musical majesty — and it’s the one thing that can melt this cold, dark, veteran heart of mine.


 

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Literally the enthusiasm with which I sing this song. Every time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana D. Hill)

Here are some fun facts about it:

1. It originated because of a competition, per Brig. Gen. Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold’s suggestion

Liberty magazine sponsored a musical contest for a spirited composition to become the official Army Air Corps song. Over 700 scores were submitted, but the judging committee (consisting of military spouses) selected Robert MacArthur Crawford’s as the winner.

2. The legendary Irving Berlin submitted an entry

Patriotic composer and lyricist Irving Berlin submitted an entry after flying in a B-1B bomber for creative inspiration. His wasn’t selected, but his work was later pieced into Moss Hart’s Broadway show “Winged Victory,” which helped raise funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund during World War II.   

Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

This Army vet started a company to entertain the troops and honor the fallen
Airpower is sexy and you know it. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

3. Crawford himself first debuted it

The song was first introduced at the Cleveland Air Races on Sept. 2, 1939, and was performed by Crawford himself.

4. It has evolved along with the Air Force

The U.S. Air Force wouldn’t become its own branch until 1947. At that time, “U.S Air Force” replaced “Army Air Corps” in the lyrics. You can see the full lyrics with original changes below.

5. It made “yonder” happen

Crawford’s use of the word “yonder” prompted the Oxford English Dictionary to expand the word’s definition to include “the far and trackless distance.”

6. It went to the moon on Apollo 15

Air Force Colonel David R. Scott and Lieutenant Colonel James B. Irwin carried the original first page of Crawford’s score to the moon on July 30, 1971.

7. It was a helluva rebel

For original radio and television versions, the scandalous use of  “helluva” was stricken and “terrible” was substituted instead.

SAGEmovieproductions | YouTube

Here are the original and current lyrics. The words in brackets are shouted with gusto and the italicized words replace the parenthesized words of the 1939 original:

Verse 1 (main melody)

Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun;

Here they come, zooming to meet our thunder, at ’em, boys, give’er the gun! [give’er the gun, hey (now)!]

Down we dive, spouting our flame from under, off with (on) one helleva roar (course),

We live in fame or go down in flame, hey! Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

Verse 2 (main melody)

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder, sent it high into the blue;

Hands of men blasted the world asunder; How they lived, God only knew, hey! [God only new, then!]

Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer, gave us (our) wings, ever to soar (every resource)!

With scouts (jets) before and Bombers (Bombs) galore, Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

Verse 3 (bridge)

Here’s a toast to the host of those who love the vastness of the sky,

To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly,

We drink to those who gave their all of old:

Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.

A toast to the host of the men we boast, the US Air Force (Army Air Corps). ZOOM.

Verse 4 (main melody)

Off we go into the wild sky yonder, Keep the wings level and true;

If you’d live to be a gray haired wonder, keep the nose out of the blue [out of the blue, hey!].

Flying men, guarding our nation’s borders, we’ll be there followed by more (ever on course)!

In each echelon, we carry on, Hey! Nothing’ll stop the US Air Force (Army Air Corps)

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