You always hear all these statements like 'freedom isn't free.'
But you never really know until you carry one of them in the casket.
When you feel their body weight. When you feel them, that's when you know.
That's when you understand. - Sergeant Kevin Thomas.
Sacrifice. There are many definitions for the word 'sacrifice.' Yet, the most powerful definition is to accept the loss or destruction of for an end, cause, or ideal. No one knows the true meaning of the word than a Military Mother.
She must put on a bold and strong look upon her face. She does not want to see her child go, but she must. Although her son is an adult, through her eyes she can still see the child within.
Her heart sank as he told her that he was being deployed over seas. Her worst fears have come true when he told her that his orders came in and he was heading off to war.
One last moment, one last kiss and one last hug. She nestles her nose in his chest as she inhales his scent to store it some where in her memory.
"I'll be fine Mother...Don't you worry...I love you..." he says before he turns and walks away.
Strong. She must stay strong. Don't let him see the tears. She silently says to herself.
In front of her is the young man he has become, as he walks away and boards the train. But in her eyes, he is still the boy he once was.
"Heavenly Father...please keep my son safe..." she says as the train pulls away.
From the outside, one can see the Blue Star Service banner as it proudly hangs in the front window. It signifies that a member of the family is serving. Each morning she adjusts the banner to ensure that it is hanging straight.
A brand new flag decorates the old porch. It's bright colors of red, white and blue gently sway to and fro as it rides upon the gentle morning breeze.
It's the first two things that they see, when they pull up to the curb in front of the modest house. It's a quiet morning, as the sun gently shine's its beautiful warm rays upon this small town in America.
In this quiet neighborhood, one can hear a pin drop if they are so inclined too. She hears the sound of two car doors shut as it echoes off the siding of the neighboring houses. She is expecting company in the presence of her Minister. But the company that she is about to receive will not bring the glory of the Lord, but the harshness of the war itself.
She hears a knock at the door. She glances at the mirror in the front hallway to check her reflection to ensure that she is proper. She walks to the door and opens to see and image she was not prepared to see.
Standing at her door are two soldiers dressed in their finest uniforms.
"May we come in?" one soldier asks.
Although it's virtually impossible, her heart sinks as she comprehends the reality of these two soldier's visit. Her knees begin to wobble and tears well up into her eyes...
"NO!" she screams as she begins to fall. One of the soldiers catches her before she reaches the floor. The two soldiers are there to inform her that her son, just nineteen years old, was killed in action.
Now the Blue Star Service Banner contains a gold star on it, signifying his death. The end table in the hall once graced a crystal vase with fresh cut flowers. Today there is a folded flag, a set of dog tags, three rifle casings and a picture of her fallen hero - her son.
It's her sacrifice...that she must bear for the rest of her life.
Very few people today, know of the sacrifices that Mothers, Fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters must endure. It's a scene that has played out more times than anyone can count. It's a scene that those of the fallen, will remember for eternity.
For most Americans, Memorial Day is the end of a three-day weekend filled with parties, laughter and fun. Greed takes over honor as stores announce sales and beg shoppers to buy their products.
For a lot of Americans, Memorial Day is the day of honor, respect, reflection and remembering. A soldier who served in a company of soldiers, remembers his fallen friends. A family visits the grave of their fallen service member while recalling all of the good times spent. A Mother attends a Memorial Day service...with tears in her eyes as she listens... For it is the echo of the gun salute as it ricochets off the tombs.
Some understand... while most don't.
The music industry is an industry that takes for granted the freedom of speech, in each and every day. While some entertainers understand the sacrifices that were made to ensure this freedom, most do not. Many show their respect, honor and gratification through songs as well as actions.
The music industry is like any other industry, it often plays off of what is popular. When we put the call out for 'songs for soldiers' each April, we are often inundated with songs that have no right to be called, used or even considered for this list. It's disgusting how the industry values the mighty dollar than the respect of the Soldier.
One of our biggest pet peeves is those who do not know or understand the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. We come across this more often than we would like to acknowledge. For those of you who do not understand - Memorial Day is the day to respect, honor and remember all the brave men and women who gave their lives in the Armed Services so that we may live in this great nation filled with freedoms. Held each year on November 11th, Veteran's Day is the day to honor and show your respect to all who served in the Armed Services.
With that, each year we comprise a list of songs that entertainers have respectfully recorded to honor all of America's Real Heroes. Most of the songs recorded refer to more of a Veterans Day standpoint, nonetheless here are those who pay tribute to our Fallen Service Members...
We begin this list with a song that kept creeping into our thoughts when we started creating this special issue this year. It's a song that was released in 2008, buy a bluegrass band called Blue Highway called "Two Soldiers."
Written by Tim Stafford and Wood Newton, this powerful ballad captures the nature of the difficult jobs required by a Casualty Notification Officers as they tell families that their loved one was killed.
“I was watching CNN one day and heard a story similar to this. Two soldiers just stuck in my head.” states Tim Stafford. “We once had a banjo player who had that job. He said that it was so heart wrenching that he had to transfer away from that job.”
We’re the two soldiers no one wants to see.
In a plain black sedan,
rolling slowly down the street.
Past the toys and the bikes,
beneath the maple trees.
Where fading yellow ribbons wave
gently in the breeze.
A loved one’s in a better place,
they won’t be back no more.
Now there’s two soldiers at the door.
So many of the songs on our list have touched us in the heart and soul. But none has touched the heart and soul of Strictly Country than "The Spirit Of The Lone Soldier."
In 2011, Strictly Country's Editor, Gina Kay Singerhouse, wrote a blog that was printed on our website called The Lone Soldier. The premise of the article was that at any given time, there was always at least one soldier fighting for and defending our freedoms.
Bluegrass singer and songwriter, Mark ‘Brink’ Brinkman was so inspired by the article that he wrote the song “The Spirit of The Lone Soldier.”
“The Spirit of the Lone Soldier”
© 2011 Mark “Brink” Brinkman
& Jamie Brinkman
Inspired by the writings of
Gina Kay Singerhouse
He carries their memory on his back
Normandy, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq
For the soldiers who never made it home. Step by step he climbs that hill alone.
In the silence he hears the sounds of war. His knees buckle from the weight of those who died before
A pride deep within won’t let him stop
Till he sees Old Glory waving at the top.
The Lone Soldier…. stands straight and tall. Like the miles of white headstones of the ones who gave their all. Mother Freedom is our lady… he’ll reach out and hold her
Safe in the arms….of The Lone Soldier.
The Lone Soldier walks among the graves. A country’s grateful tears…roll slowly down her face
For the fathers, mothers, daughters, sons and wives…The ones that bought our freedom with their lives.
The Spirit is our lifeblood spilled on the battleground. It runs through our farmland, the cities and the towns
The Spirit unites us and keeps our nation strong. As long as we remember the Lone Soldier will walk on!
The Lone Soldier… stands straight and tall. Like the miles of white headstones of the ones who gave their all. Mother Freedom is our lady…he’ll reach out and hold her
Safe in the arms….of The Lone Soldier.
“The idea that there is a ‘spirit’ of the lone soldier that is present all over this country hit home with me.” replies Brink. “The fact that this ‘spirit’ carries all the memories of all who have served and will serve. The ‘spirit of the lone soldier’ is really present whenever we remember and thank God that people have given their lives for our freedom. I thought that as long as this ‘spirit of the lone soldier’ is alive with us there is hope for our country…but…the day we forget is the day we start to lose the freedom that all before us had fought for.”
In years previous and even now, Brink has written several songs about soldiers. In 2010, he released his album On The Brink of A Dream in which he included his song "With Love From Normandy." The plot within the lyrics is about a young man who finds a letter his Grandfather wrote the day he was killed in Normandy.
I held the letter to my breast
tears began to fall
Remembering the soldiers who sacrificed it all
Thank God for freedom
for home and family
And the letter not forgotten
‘With love from Normandy’
Although songs for soldiers date back to the civil war, this song is one of very few songs that we found that speaks about World War II. Most of the songs that we find about soldiers refer to the Vietnam war or the wars in the middle east.
The Vietnam war era was a time when many entertainers in the music industry voiced their opinions through song. Many of which were quite angry with the situation.
As time passed and the anger subsided, singers and songwriters began to feel compassion. In 1983, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial called The Wall was constructed in Washington, D.C.. Like the war itself, The Wall became a huge controversy in America. Jimmy Fortune, of the band The Statler Brothers, heard about the controversy. He flew to Washington to see The Wall. He was so inspired by the scene of families paying respect to their loved ones, that by the time he returned home, he had written a song called "More Than A Name On A Wall." The powerful song was originally released in April 1989 by the Statler Brothers. In 2015, Jimmy re-released his version of the song on his solo album, Hits & Hymns.
She said, “Lord my boy was special,
and he meant so much to me,
And oh, I’d love to see him but I know it just can’t be
So I thank you for my memories and
the moments to recall
But Lord could you tell him
he’s more than a name on the wall.”
Jimmy was not the only artist to find inspiration in the simplicity of The Wall. After watching a CNN documentary about the Vietnam War and visitors bringing mementos to The Wall, Jamie O'Hara sat down and wrote a powerful song called "50,000 Names." With no political agenda in mind, the song speaks volumes about those who died during the war. Jamie went on to record and release the song in 1994, however it’s George Jones’ 2002 version that most people recognize today.
They come from all across this land
In pickup trucks and mini vans
Searching for a boy from long ago
They scan the wall and find his name
The teardrops fall like pouring rain
And silently they leave a gift and go
There is no greater sight then the sight of snow white tombstones located in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia. Established during the Civil War, this 624 acres are the final resting place for more than 400,000.
In 2005, Trace Adkins released his song “Arlington.” Written by Jeremy Spillman and Dave Turnbull, the song is sung from the viewpoint of a soldier who was killed and buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I wanted to record a song that paid honor to all of our military men and women - and that’s what this song does.” tells Trace Adkins. “It simply recognizes and honors those who paid that ultimate price for our country’s freedom.”
The song was inspired by the story of United States Marine Corps Corporal Patrick Nixon who died in battle in 2003.
And every time I hear twenty-one guns,
I know they brought another hero home to us
We’re thankful for those
thankful for the things we’ve done,
We can rest in peace,
‘cause we are the chosen ones,
We made it to Arlington,
yeah dust to dust,
Don’t cry for us, we made it to Arlington.
Another great song about Arlington National Cemetery came from Sammy Kershaw in his song “The Snow White Rows of Arlington.” Written by Hugh Prestwood, the song uses the representation of Arlington National Cemetery as a reason why a soldier marches off to war.
Every blade of grass is sacred
Every headstone is a shrine
To somebody who was willing
To put existence on the line
The liberty we take for granted
Was purchased with their patriotic lives
Are their sleeping spirits restless?
Do they listen for the sound?
Of the mustering of armies
To defend their hallowed ground?
Will we rise to the occasion
To ensure their legacy survives?
Surprisingly we are not aware of any songs about the Tomb of The Unknowns. Often in our research we think of all the family members who are still waiting for news about their loved ones who are still missing in action. A song about the Tomb of The Unknowns would truly honor the spirits of those buried there.
In 2006, Big & Rich released their album Comin’ To Your City. The album closed out with a song called “8th of November.” Written by Big Kenny and John Rich, the song has a history that most people don’t know. The original version of the song contained an undeniable duplicate melody of Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of The Edmond Fitzgerald.”
The video of the song was sent to Strictly Country. A week later a representative of Warner Bros. Records contacted us and asked if we would help promote the song and video. We said we could not be part of this song due to it’s identical melody of Gordon Lightfoot’s song. The record label requested Big and Rich to re-write the melody to create the version that you hear today.
Perhaps one of the biggest songs about soldiers comes from Billy Ray Cyrus. In 1992, Billy released the original version of this powerful song, “Some Gave All,” on an album with the same title. In 2014, Cyrus released an acoustic version of the song on his album called The Distance. The song follows the life of a soldier named Sandy Kane.
All gave some and some gave all
And some stood through for the red, white and blue
And some had to fall
And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some gave all
In 2015, Gospel and Bluegrass singer and songwriter, Tammy Jones Robinette, released her self entitled album. The album features two new songs for soldiers called "The Letters" and "The Colors That Never Ran." In the song "The Letters," Robinette shares the story of a mother of a fallen soldier and how she reminisces about her son with the letters he wrote to her. Where as in "The Colors That Never Ran," is a poetic song about the true meaning behind the colors of the American flag.
Little Texas released a very powerful song for soldiers in 2015 called "Slow Ride Home." This beautiful, well written and heartfelt ballad shares the story of Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols as he returns home to his final resting place.
Throughout this article we have hopefully inspired you to think about what Memorial Day is truly all about. We have only touched on some of the more notable songs that reflect on the true meaning of this heartfelt holiday.
Throughout the year we continue to research and find more songs about soldiers. You can find the entire list right here.
Sacrifice. There are no words to provide comfort to those who must look upon a flag draped coffin of their loved one. This Memorial Day; honor, respect and commemorate their sacrifice...
Honoring Heroes Through Song
Honor America's real heroes with the following songs...This list is not complete. We continue to add to this list. Click on link to read all about the song.
1967 - Don McLean.
50,000 Names - George Jones.
640 Battlefield Drive - Nu-Blu.
8th of November - Big & Rich *.
A Dear John Letter - Jean Shepard & Ferlin Husky.
All The Unsung Heroes - Lane Brody.
A Love Like That - Matt Leadbetter.
American By God's Amazing Grace - Luke Stricklin.
American Soldier - Toby Keith.
Amos & Sarah - Becky Buller.
Andersonville - Dave Alvin.
Andersonville - Nothin' Fancy.
Another Old Soldier - Mark Collie.
Antietam's Hill - Cumberland River.
Arlington - Trace Adkins.
A Soldier Died Today - Connie Frances.
A Soldier's Last Letter - Ernest Tubb.
A Soldier's Last Letter - Merle Haggard.
A Soldier's Prayer - Collin Raye.
Back Home - John Anderson.
Before The Tree Comes Down - Lisa McClowry.
Bells of Home - Circa Blue.
Between The Devil and The Deep - Band of Ruhks.
Boy In A Uniform - Rockie Lynne.
Brave Little Soldier - Becky Hobbs.
Brave Little Soldier - Dolly Parton.
Brave Men - Colton James.
Bullets - Lisa Carver.
(The) Bumper of My S.U.V. - Chely Wright.
Bus Fare - Nothin' Fancy.
Call A Marine - Toby Keith.
Choosin' Up Sides - Jonmark Stone.
Citizen Soldier - 3 Doors Down.
Colors - The Oak Ridge Boys.
Coming Home - John Tigert.
Confederate Jasmine - Thomm Jutz.
Crazy Being Home - Mark Wills.
Daddy Was A Badass - Jesse Dayton.
Dear Old Flag - Vince Gill.
Dear Uncle Sam - Loretta Lynn.
Deck of Cards - Bill Anderson.
Die Tryin' - Chase Rice.
Enough Left of Me - Curtis Braly.
Fighting Side of Me - Merle Haggard.
Free To Be Me - Aaron Tippin.
Freedom Isn't Free - John Anderson.
G.I. Joe - Bobby Bare.
G.I. Joe & Lillie - The Oak Ridge Boys.
God Bless The Soldier - Rhonda Vincent.
God, Family and Country - Craig Morgan.
Grey Ghost - Deer Creek Boys.
Heartsick Soldier On Heartbreak Ridge - Ernest Tubb.
Heavy Cross To Bear - Nu-Blu.
Hell In A Helmet - RW Hampton.
Hero At Home - April Taylor.
Heroes Come From Small Towns - Rockie Lynne.
He's Coming Home - Cowboy Crush.
Home - Restless Heart.
Home Free - Mason Douglas.
Homeless Man - Blue Highway.
Homeless of The Brave - Detour.
I Drive Your Truck - Lee Brice.
If I Don't Make It Back - Tracy Lawrence.
If I Don't Make It Back - Bobby Pinson.
If You're Reading This - Tim McGraw.
I Just Came Back From A War - Darryl Worley.
I'm Gonna Miss You - Dolly Parton.
It's For God, And Country And You Mom (That's Why I'm Fighting In Viet Nam) - Ernest Tubb.
John D. Champion - Becky Buller.
Johnny Reb - Johnny Horton.
Josephine - Collin Raye.
Josephine - Joey + Rory.
Land That I Love - Joe Caverlee.
Legend of Long Mountain - Nothin' Fancy.
Let My Tears Be Still - Josh Abbott Band.
Letters From Home - John Michael Montgomery.
Letters From Vets I Met In Vietnam - Connie Frances.
Me & Crippled Soldiers - Merle Haggard.
Medal of Honor - Lucas Hoge.
Missing In Action - Ernest Tubb.
More Than A Name On A Wall - Jimmy Fortune.
More Than A Name On A Wall - The Statler Brothers.
Mr. Soldier - Brandon Rhyder.
Old Army Hat - Bill Anderson.
On My Side of The World - Tammy Cochran.
One More Soldier Coming Home - Eddy Money.
P.T. 109 - Jimmy Dean.
Prayer From Home - Brand New Strings.
Ragged Old Flag - Johnny Cash.
Red White & Blue Night In Georgia - Megan Conner.
Red, White & Blue - Rockie Lynne.
Red, White & Blue - Aaron Lewis.
Remembering - The Grascals.
Remember The Brave - Johnny Bulford.
Riding With Private Malone - David Ball.
Sacrifice For Me - The Oak Ridge Boys.
Semper Fi - Trace Adkins.
Silver Medals and Sweet Memories - The Statler Brothers.
Sgt. Kelly's Bridge - Irlene Mandrell.
Slow Ride Home - Little Texas.
(The) Spirit Of The Lone Soldier - Mark Brinkman.**
Solider Boy - The Shirelles.
Soldiers & Jesus - James Otto.
Soldier Song - Steve Azar.
Soldier Song - Gloriana.
Soldier's Son - Ricky Skaggs.
Some Gave All - Billy Ray Cyrus.
Stars & Stripes On Iwo Jima - Bob Wills.
Thank You Vets - Paulette Carlson.
The Ballad of The Green Beret - SSGT Barry Sadler.
The Ballad of Ira Hayes - Johnny Cash.
The Battle of New Orleans - Johnny Horton.
The Boots My Momma Wears - Irlene Mandrell.
The Colors That Never Ran - Tammy Jones Robinette.
The Grave - Don McLean.
The Last Parade - Joe Mullens & The Radio Ramblers.
The Legend of Long Mountain - Nothin' Fancy.
The Letters - Tammy Jones Robinette.
The Other Little Soldier - Josh Gracin.
The Snow White Rows of Arlington - Sammy Kershaw.
They Also Serve - John Conlee.
'Til The Last Shot's Fired - Trace Adkins.
To Lay My Weapon Down - Nothin' Fancy.
Two Soldiers - Blue Highway.
'Till They Come Home - Rhonda Vincent.
Volunteers - Mark Erelli.
Watching Over The Soldiers At Christmas - 3 Fox Drive with Charlie Daniels.
Waving Man - Don McLean.
We Don't Apologize For America - Hank Williams Jr.
Welcome Home - Dolly Parton.
Wes Tyrell - Christopher Wayne Morris.
What Heroes Do - Bryan Ragsdale.
When They Come Back - Derek Scholl.
Where The Good Daddies Go - Donna Hughes.
Where Is My Sailor Boy - The Monroe Brothers.
White Cross On Okinawa - Bob Wills.
With Love From Normandy - Mark Brinkman.
Without A Kiss - Aaron Tippin.
Writing On The Wall - Clinton Gregory.
Wrote That In Blue - DeAnne Moore.
If you find a song that we have not included on this list, please contact us...
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