If I Should Ever Take The Fall...
Take Me Back Home...
Restless Heart tells of a soldier’s sacrifice through song.
(This article was printed in the 11th Annual Memorial Day Honors Special Issue of Strictly Country Magazine, 2014.)
He remembers his mother’s tears as he sits on the damp ground with his back against a tree. Those tears will forever be embedded in his memory as he set off to join this dang war. He thought it would be fun, but it’s not fun lining up in a straight line with the enemy lined up just fifty yards away, willing to blow your head off. He sits there listening to the stories that his fellow farmers turned soldiers tell of their families back home. He’s some where in Virginia when he thinks about home. He’s thankful for his mother booting his butt to get to school. There’s maybe three or four guys in his regiment that know how to read and write. As another guy starts talking about his wife, he reaches in his coat pocket and draws out the last letter he had received from his Mother. It was more than a year ago, since he had received word from back home.
He’s in France. Why France? He asks himself. He wanted to go to his father’s homeland of Germany. He had heard so many stories, told by his father, about growing up in Germany. Now here he sits in the mud in France in what they call a trench. Sitting across from him is his brother who is reading a letter from home. It’s odd how his brother will receive mail from home, but he doesn’t. The family says they send both of them letters, but he doesn’t get the ones sent to him. The letter that his brother is reading arrived eleven months ago.
Holland. He had never heard of this place before now. The people here are grateful for us Americans. But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s just a simple country boy from Georgia who has never heard of Holland. He’s in a fox hole with a guy from Alabama. The worst part of being in war is the hurry up and wait. Just before he left for boot camp, his Pa told him to stay sharp and not worry about him and his mother back home. It’s hard not to think about them when all you have is time to sit and think. Just last week, he received a letter from his Pa telling him how proud he was. The date on the letter was nine months ago and he had received it just last week.
He had watched his brothers march off to war, but now it was his time. God it’s cold here! He thought that Wisconsin was cold, but Korea feels colder! As he sits in a bunker waiting for orders, he takes out the letter his sweetheart had written him. He was so scared when he asked her to marry him. But just a week before he was shipped to boot camp, she did. Now, here he was reading her latest letter from back home. It came today, but it’s dated six months ago. Thinking back, he wishes he would have written more to his brothers while they served in the last war. Now, all he can think about is home.
He wipes the sweat off of his brow for the hundredth time today. It’s hot, he’s dirty and he’s sitting in the jungle of some God forsaken country. He hasn’t had a shower in God knows how long. He thinks that his last shower came from some rain that pass through just the other night. He wishes he was in Alaska or Canada, any where but here. It’s hot, sticky and his feet haven’t been dry since he arrived in ‘Nam. They are waiting for orders to move, when he leans up against a tree and takes out a cigarette to smoke. Next to his smokes is a letter from his brother. He opens it up to read for the eight hundredth time. It’s been three months since he received it. His mother makes his brother write to cheer him up. They had a close relationship before he was sent over. Now, he fears that his brother won’t recognize him when he returns home.
Sand. So much damn sand. He loved the beach when he was a kid. In fact, he and his buddies would live at the beach all summer. Now, he would give anything to see green grass and trees covered in bright green leaves. Hell, he could even go for one of those brutal winters that Minnesota is so known for. He wonders how the Twins are doing this year. He reaches in his pocket to pull out a baseball that his mom had sent him. In the same pocket he finds a letter that his wife wrote just last week. This Sunday is Mother’s day and he has requested a few minutes to Skype her. They are expecting their first baby and he can’t wait. Thoughts of home bring excitement and sadness to him all at the same time.
War. It’s a hell of a thing to endure emotionally and physically. There are so many aspects about war to live through and to endure, one can only imagine the soldier’s plight is to get through war.
In 2013, legendary country music band Restless Heart captured the essence of what a soldier must endure day to day in war in their song “Home.” This powerful ballad was written by bass guitarist Paul Gregg.
“One day I was sitting around and I got a phone call from this kid who was the son of the girl that I had dated in Oakley, Oklahoma, thirty-five years prior.” tells Paul Gregg of Restless Heart. “We had a show that we were doing in Oklahoma in a couple of weeks and he called and introduced himself. I was flabbergasted to get a phone call from him after all that time. He was stationed over in Iraq and he was in the National Guard and a Sergeant. We talked about two hours on the phone. He talked about his stay over there. He was in, I think, his second or third tour at the time; and was going back over there. It was very, very emotional. Eye opening about some of the engagements that he had with his buddies and he was really anxious to get back, actually. He was telling me stories about how anxious he was about getting back to his unit to see the guys. The dedication that he felt towards his brothers out there. It’s incredible and very eye opening and emotional. After we hung up the phone, I couldn’t get a lot of what we talked about out of my head. So I sat down with a piece a paper and a pencil and started writin’. I was finished with the song in about 45 minutes. It just spilled out on to the page.”
(Paul Gregg & Dave Innis)
The mail here don’t come often, but I did get word today, my baby girl’s been talking and there’s a new one on the way. Because we made sweet love my last furlough by the banks of Bitter creek. It’s those honeysuckle memories that keep me on my feet. If I ever feel alone, I just think about home.
I think about home, I think about you and me. While I serve God and country and defend our right to liberty. My wants and needs are simple. A memory or two to spare, of someone who’s always there, waiting back home. Somebody’s waiting back home. Home sweet home.
We don’t think about gas prices or how to pay our income tax, politics and the price of oil ain’t where our heads are at.
We don’t get disillusioned by this yearning deep inside, because it’s bound to be the force that drives us all just to stay alive. I know that I’m not alone, we’re all thinking about home.
We’re thinking about home, thinking about a life that’s free. Where we serve God and country and defend our right to liberty. Our wants and needs are simple. Another round or two to spare, and someone who’s waiting there, still waiting back home.
So to my comrades out here with me, this last request for one and all, If I should ever take the fall, be sure to take me back home. Take me to the land that’s free. Where we serve God and country and we can live our lives in liberty. My wants and needs are simple, a tender word or two to spare. For someone who’s waiting there, still waiting back home. Somebody’s waiting back home. Won’t you carry me home sweet home. I just want to get home.
“We talked about what it was like to be out there and what motivated - I was telling him ‘I don’t know how you guys do it. Where do you find the gumption and courage and intestinal fortitude to get out there, with people shootin’ at you, to do this?’ I don’t understand it, because I haven’t been through it.” replies Gregg. “He started talking about the bond that’s created. The bond that get’s developed between men and women who are fighting for their lives is something that is so different and so connecting and unbreakable that you just can’t even imagine. So I wanted to touch on that. I wanted to write about it or get as close to what it was that motivated people to do what he was doing at the time. Also another huge reality is that the things that you think about when you’re out there and your life is being threatened. Am I gonna get home? Am I gonna be able to see my parents? Am I gonna see my wife and my kids or am I gonna just die out here? It’s an incredible, emotional and life long impacting experience to be out there in that kind of thing. A lot of guys don’t survive it physically and mentally in a lot of different ways. I was so overwhelmed by it. My gratitude and my feelings of what they must be going through when they get back home and stuff like that.”
The power of the lyrics are enhanced with the artistically defined instrumentals heard in the precious melody. Paul’s haunting poignant vocals bring a sense of honorable pride of a soldier serving.
Paul is no stranger to American duty. His father served as an MP (military police officer) in the US Army in World War II. He was station in Guam in the Hawaiian Islands shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Lead guitarist, Greg Jennings’ father also served. He served honorably as a Marine and survived five beach landings including Iwo Jima in World War II.
In the early 1990’s, during the Gulf War, Paul teamed up with Greg to write their first song for soldiers with “The Torch of Freedom.”
“It’s a pretty cool song too.” tells Paul. “It’s a little bit different than ‘Home.’ It’s a little bit more harder edge. At the time it’s what I felt like everybody was feeling and where everybody’s head was in the Iraqi wars.”
Throughout the thirty plus years that Restless Heart has been together, they have toured various bases around the world. They have found themselves among the wounded in field hospitals talking with the brave soldiers who just want to get back to their units. They have performed in front of grateful soldiers during Christmas season as well. But most of all they have brought a piece of home to America’s real heroes - the soldiers.
“I hope they get an appreciation for - what they [soldiers] have to go through.” replies Paul when asked what he wants the listener to get from ‘Home.’ “Like I said before, a lot of the guys and gals that come back don’t come all the way back. If you know what I mean. They are faced day in and day out with problems. Even after they are done and they get home. They’re still suffering with a lot of what they’ve been through. Did you know that 75% of the homeless in this country are Veterans? That oughta scare the crap out of every body in this country!”
Restless Heart has teamed up with various charities in support for our soldiers and Veterans. You can find more information about these charities on their website.
Home. They say that home is where the heart is. Throughout war, a soldier thinks of home often. Just wishing and praying that they get to return home. Upon their return, many do not fully come home. For in time they have left a piece of themselves ‘over there.’ While they are able to walk the streets of freedom at home, all will say that the real heroes are the ones who never returned...
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