Uncovering songs that tell the stories of
America’s real heroes…
By: The Staff at Strictly Country
It was a quiet sunny summer morning as he walked up the side walk to his Grandparent’s house. Well, it wasn’t his Grandpa’s any more. His Grandpa had passed away a little over a week ago and they laid his body to rest this past Monday.
His Grandmother had called each of her grandchildren over to choose one thing that belonged to Grandpa, as a reminder of him. He just couldn’t bring himself to arrive before now. In the silence of the morning, he could hear his footsteps as he neared her darkened door. His heart was still breaking over the loss of his ‘best friend,’ his Grandpa.
Grandpa was like no other man he had met before and probably like no other he would meet in his lifetime. As a kid he would look fondly up at his Grandpa, all the while asking if he would flex his muscles. As he grew older and taller, his Grandpa proceeded to grow small and feeble. But that didn’t stop their fun together.
Grandpa taught him many things like how to catch the biggest fish and clean ‘em for dinner. He also taught him about cars, tractors and how to grow the best vegetable garden.
Good jokes were often shared over ice cream cones. The best stories were always told under the night sky. Grandpa would invariably get him in to trouble with Grandma, after stealing one of her home baked cookies. The ones that are best shared with a friend over a cold glass of milk.
Grandpa was never to busy to play with him and he appreciated every moment. The years had passed and he made darn sure that his life was never to busy to spend time with his Grandpa.
The house seems lifeless, even though Grandma still lives here. It’s as if the house itself can tell that someone is missing. The memories made with his Grandfather flood his mind’s eye as he walks through the house to get to the attic.
He climbs the ladder leading to the attic carefully. He has never been up here as it was always off limits to the grandkids. With a flashlight in one hand he stands in the attic casting its warm golden rays around the expanse of this forbidden room. It just looks like a pile of junk from where he is standing.
Someone had cleared a path that leads to the other end of the attic. As he walks upon the clutter that is his Grandparent’s belongings, he can only think that this is a lifetime of mementos gathered by seventy plus years of them being together. He wants to find something to remember his Grandfather by, but he doesn’t know what. All this stuff just looks like garbage to him. Moments turned into memories are stored upon physical items that only mean something to his Grandparents.
“Grandpa what do you want me to have?” he whispers quietly to no one.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees it. In the far back corner his light casts upon a box that has been painted a dark green. The box has seen better days as rust has taken over the locks and hinges. He opens the box up to reveal more junk. He sifts through letters, books, photos and more to reveal what might be a hidden treasure.
One thing peaks his interest. It looks like a little box. But when he shines his flashlight upon it, he sees it is a camera. Settled with his find, he returns to the main part of the house to show his Grandma what he wishes to take.
She is happy with his find as she tells her Grandson about how her husband was a shutter bug. He loved to take photographs of anything and everything. With a happy, nonetheless broken heart, he returns home with his Brownie camera.
It sat upon his kitchen table in his apartment for two weeks now just begging for him to explore it. It’s Saturday morning and he finally has the time to mess with his Grandfather’s camera. He spent the better part of his lunch hour, yesterday, researching how to handle the camera. He opens it up to reveal that his Grandfather had left a roll of film inside.
With great anticipation, he heads to the local one hour photo developing store. An hour or so later, the clerk hands him the envelope of photographs while asking him “Those are some photographs you got there. Where did you get them?”
He still does not know the camera that his Grandfather had treasured, holds a far more greater and valuable treasure...
For that Brownie camera held sixteen photographs that were taken on December 7, 1941. No one in his family knew that his Grandfather was a sailor that was on the U.S.S. Quapaw ATF-110, during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Five of the photographs are pictured above. You can view all sixteen of the photographs right here...
These are the remnants and relics of war. Hidden deep in the attics these mementos sit, just waiting for discovery. How many stories are told and how many stories are lost amongst the rubble of forgotten treasures? Some stories are kept amongst the hearts and souls of those who heard them, while others are shared through the written word. Tales like these are often bestowed from generation to generation. A few of these tales gain a life of their own as they are captured in song.
Through out the years, we have uncovered a wide variety of relics and remnants of war. Relics and remnants that we call Songs For Soldiers. As you read through our ever growing list of Songs for Soldiers, we want you to picture in your mind’s eye a museum filled with these relics, mementos, scars, wounds and memories. Although we wish that we could list these songs within their respective order of when and which war they speak of, we feel that it is best to talk about them in order from A to Z.
We begin with George Jones’ song “50,000 Names.” Released in 2002, the song was written by Jamie O’Hara and speaks about The Vietnam Veterans Memorial—The Wall located in Washington, D.C.. The song captures the essence of visiting such a heartfelt monument that in it’s creation was surrounded by major controversy. This song brings a heart and soul to this two hundred and forty-six feet of the etched gabbro walls that represents those who died in war.
The most controversial Song For Soldiers comes from Big & Rich with “8th of November.” Most fans do not know the controversy behind this song. Released in 2006, the original version of this song contained a melody that was quite identical to Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 hit song “The Wreck of The Edmond Fitzgerald.” Warner Bros. Records acknowledged this and recommended that Big & Rich re-write the melody. The duo took the advice of the label and returned with a new version that contained a slightly different melody as the first. The song tells the tale of a soldier, Niles Harris, who served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the United States Army during Operation Hump in South Vietnam on November 8, 1965.
If a person were to scavenge through all the letters that were written over the years throughout each of the wars, one would certainly come across a letter called “a Dear John” letter. While the exact origins of this phrase are unknown, it is commonly believed to have been invented during World War II, by Americans. These letters were quite common during this period as the intention of the letter was to terminate a relationship between a wife or girlfriend waiting back home for a serviceman serving over seas.
In 1953, Ferlin Husky and Jean Shepard released their song “A Dear John Letter.” Written by Billy Barton, Fuzzy Owen and Lewis Talley, the song made a reference to the popular concept of a Dear John letter. This duet is well performed as Jean takes on the role of the girlfriend sending the letter, while Ferlin adds a speaking part. The song has been covered by several artists including Pat Boone, Red Sovine and Ernest Tubb. In 1965, Skeeter Davis and Bobby Bare recorded their rendition of the duet. Later in 1953, Jean teamed up with Ferlin to record a reply to the song with a new song called “Forgive Me John.”
In 2002, Lane Brody released her third album called Pieces of Life. Closing out the album is a song called “All The Unsung Heroes,” written by Lane. This simple and elegant song is performed in such a broad way that the song could be used for a wide variety of ‘heroes.’ Nonetheless, this critically acclaimed song became the title track of a 40 minute video aiding the healing process of Vietnam Veterans and their families. The documentary has been added to the Smithsonian institute, Arlington National Cemetery and The Vietnam Veterans Memorial—The Wall in Washington, D.C..
Just a couple of years ago, in 2015, we uncovered a song recorded by Matt Leadbetter called “A Love Like That.” Written by Lee Roy, this song is not your typical soldier song. However, many are able to relate to the story contained within the gentle melody. It’s the story of two people who fall in love, then one goes off to war while the other waits back home. The story plays out as it shares minute details within the two lover’s lives.
In 2006, a soldier by the name of Luke Stricklin was serving in Baghdad when he wrote a song called “American By God’s Amazing Grace.” He recorded the song on the streets of Baghdad and e-mailed it back to his family in the States. Unbeknownst to Luke, his family had forwarded the song to a local radio station. By the time Luke returned home, his song had reached across the nation and he had a record contract. His debut album, of the same title, contains two versions of the song—the original Baghdad version as well as the newly recorded studio version. Luke, captures the best description of what it was like serving in Iraq within the song.
Toby Keith is no stranger when it comes to supporting America’s real heroes. First to hit this list is his “American Soldier” song. This honorable song is perhaps the best expression that characterizes the heart of a soldier. Listening to this one, truly makes one’s heart swell with pride for those who serve.
Bluegrass musicians are best known for capturing the reality of the Civil War. Becky Buller brings to our collection a song called “Amos & Sarah.” Ms. Buller captures the story of a Union soldier named Amos as she sings about his service and capture during the Civil War.
Each year as we create our Annual Memorial Day Honors Special issue, we tend to learn different aspects about war, Military service and other historical places and events. We have touched on various subjects like the duty of a Causality Notification Officer, treatment of the flag, The Blue Star Service Banner, The Gold Star Service Banner among many other topics. This year we were introduced to Andersonville.
Located in Georgia, Andersonville is also known as Camp Sumter. During the Civil War, Andersonville held approximately 45,000 Union prisoners in which 13,000 died. The conditions were so horrific that historians deem it the American Holocaust or American Auschwitz.
In 1991, Americana singer and songwriter Dave Alvin wrote a song that told the story of the horrific Prisoner of War Camp in his song called “Andersonville.” Recently the Bluegrass group Nothin’ Fancy recorded their rendition of the song. Nothin’ Fancy’s version brings more of a historical account of this archaeological site than the original recording.
We acknowledge that this list is not a complete list of songs for soldiers. We do know that many other magazines, publications and online websites will acknowledge other songs as being songs for soldiers. However, many of the other media outlets really do not know the truth when it comes to Military Service and or War.
Recently we came across a song that was hidden deep within the recesses of the country music genre. On his first full-length album, Mark Collie wrote and recorded “Another Old Soldier.” The song is a wonderful narrative about two soldiers, one who served in World War II and the other in Vietnam. Although the song does not refer to them being related as father and son, it does put into the listener’s mind’s eye that they could be. Nonetheless it is the chorus that captures our attention…
Twenty-one guns, the stars, the stripes
An eye full of tears, and a heart full of pride
When you hear that distant bugle play
Another old soldier fades away
Another old soldier fades away
Throughout our country there are a wide variety of hallowed grounds where America’s real heroes—soldiers—are buried. In our neck of the Northwoods, we have Fort Snelling which is one of 135 national cemeteries that is maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The most hallowed of these cemeteries is Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Over the years, several songs have been written about Arlington National Cemetery. The first to hit our list is a song written by Jeremy Spillman and Dave Turnbull called “Arlington.” Mr. Turnbull was inspired to write the song after meeting the father of United States Marine Corps Corporal Patrick Nixon, who died in battle in 2003. Trace Adkins gives a haunting performance of this song which is sung from the viewpoint of a solder who was killed in battle and now resides at Arlington National Cemetery.
Way to often many of these songs are considered or taken into consideration as political statements. When in reality, majority of these songs have no political agenda. Trace Adkins was one of the first to state “This is not a war song [referring to his song “Arlington”], and it has nothing to do with politics. This is a true story.”
Musical archeologists have not uncovered who to claim as the first musician that started singing about war, soldiers and or serving. In fact, we believe that it is virtually impossible to make such a claim as war is as old as the earth. If we take a look into American history, we often find songs that were written and sung by Union and Confederate soldiers, let alone those who served during the war of 1812 and the Revolutionary war.
In more modern day history and country music history, we can agree to claim that Ernest Tubb was one of the founder’s of songs for soldiers as he recorded several in his career. The first song from Mr. Tubb’s catalog to hit this list is “A Heartsick Soldier On Heartbreak Ridge.” Written by Tubb, Max Fidler and Nellie Kane, the song was released on November 13, 1951. Mr. Tubb captures the story of a lonely soldier who is station on Heartbreak Ridge.
According to history, Heartbreak Ridge was one of several major engagements in the hills of North Korea. The battle took place between September 13 and October 15, 1951, the result was major losses on both sides—over 3,700 American and French and an estimated 25,000 North Korean and Chinese were killed.
One of the most poignant songs about soldiers is not really a song but in fact it is a poem. Written by A. Lawrence Vaincourt in 1987, “Just A Common Soldier” has become one of the most sought after poems of the times as it tells the story of a soldier who gave his all, but gets nothing in the end. In 2013, the legendary iconic entertainer Connie Francis was introduced to this poem by her house keeper, Mary Pinto. Pinto found the poem while surfing the internet. Ms. Francis was so moved by the poem that she felt that she had to record it immediately. Connie contacted the author’s son, Randy Vaincourt, to make arrangements to record the powerful poem. Francis thought that many of the lines in the original poem were stilted and requested permission to change them in her recording. The song “A Soldier Died Today (Just A Common Soldier)” was recorded as a vocal recitation and is backed by various instrumentals performing many iconic American songs. It’s the instrumentals that enhance the pure raw emotions of the poem. When mixed with Connie’s unique vocals, together they bring forth a deeply moving song that will certainly haunt your soul.
“It’s really kind of devastating is it not?” asked Connie Francis during a 2014 interview with Strictly Country. “It speaks to all of us and to our values. It really speaks to our values and what they should be, but they’re not.”
When you break it all down, we believe that each and everyone of us prays for peace. However, the undeniable truth is that war will always exist and brave men and women will be called to fight, but most of all to die.
In 2007, Collin Raye released a six song EP that opened with a beautiful heartfelt ballad called “A Soldier’s Prayer.” Written by Janine Bilyeu and Charlie Chadwick, the song captures a prayer for safety for all of the soldiers who are fighting, but also a prayer for peace so no soldier has to pay the ultimate sacrifice.
The next song that we uncovered is not really a song for soldiers, however, we do feel that it needs to be added to this list for many reasons. In 2015, John Anderson released his album Goldmine. On the album, John includes two songs for soldiers including “Back Home.” Anderson teams up with Jimmy Stevens to create a mesmerizing heartfelt ballad that speaks of a woman who is lying in a hospital about to die when she is visited by her oldest son, a Marine, who is there to take her home. However, when the woman passes and the family is called in, the nurse finds out that the Marine has already passed away many years prior.
Christmas is always a hard time for soldiers and their families. If you notice and or pay attention, it is always around September through December that our troops are called into action. In the Military, you always know it’s Christmas when your orders come in.
Several entertainers have captured the heart and soul of the holidays from a Military family’s standpoint. In 2012, Lisa McClowry released her debut EP called Before The Tree Comes Down. The EP features four Christmas carols, however it was the title track that captured the listening audience. In the song, Lisa sings about minor things that a family does around Christmas with the hopes and prayers that their soldier returns home safely before they take the Christmas tree down.
One of the most impressive Christmas songs for soldiers was released in 2016 by Bluegrass group Circa Blue. “Bells of Home” captures a scene from the infamous Battle of The Bulge. Written by Dawn Kenney and David Morris, the song is sung by a soldier’s viewpoint as he misses the bells of home at Christmas time.
The Battle of The Bulge was the last major German offensive campaign during World War II. It took place on December 16, 1944 through January 25, 1945, an estimated 19,000 American soldiers were killed as it was claimed as the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II. To this day, it is still hard to believe that America won the battle as troops were not thoroughly supplied with ammunition, food or winter clothing.
“December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy…” President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The attack on Pearl Harbor lasted less than two hours and claimed the lives of more than 2,500 people and wounded 1,000 more. Almost half of the casualties during the attacks were on the navel battle ship USS Arizona, including a man named Samuel Adolphus Abercrombie.
Seventy-four years after his death, a Bluegrass band called Band of Ruhks commemorates Samuel in their song “Between The Devil And The Deep.” Written by Kim Fox and Ronnie Bowman, the song captures the soul and spirit of what Mr. Abercrombie might have gone through during the attacks.
“That song really means a lot to me ‘cause that guy is a real guy!” shares Ronnie Bowman of the Band of Ruhks. “We found out as much as we could find out on the internet, me and my co-writer Kim Fox. She came over here that day...I had this line and a melody that went ‘I was a sailor on a ship named...’ I knew that the guy’s name was Samuel Adolphus Abercrombie. So, she being very computer literate, more so than I am. She got on there and found out all this information. It was WOW! He was born in Leggett, Texas. There was five of ‘em. His mother had died. So, we started puttin’ two and two together. We wanted to make it a song that just didn’t sing about Pearl Harbor.
It’s such a tragedy. But some times the people, you know, just one person that went through hell. So we wanted to put a face to this for all the people that died and survived and for their families. For all the people that do that today - it was just one of those things that you sit down and by the end of the day you listen to the song and it’s like bigger than the two people that wrote it. It’s like I don’t know how that happened to us. But, I feel like it’s more of a gift from God.”
In 2010, we uncovered a wonderful gem in our neck of the Northwoods by the name of Rockie Lynne. Lynne, a Veteran of the United States Army, released an album called Songs For Soldiers. The inspiration for the album was his twenty-one day tour of Afghanistan, Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf where he and his band entertained U.S. troops stationed abroad. The album features ten beautiful songs written and co-written by Lynne. The first song from this album to hit our list is “Boy In A Uniform.” This is a passionate song that contains a finely-calibrated and refined storyline.
The next two songs on our list contain the same title of “Brave Little Soldier,” but are quite different from each other. The first comes from Dolly Parton and her album Heartsongs. Parton wrote the song for her littlest fans stating that they too have to be brave as they walk their paths through life. The song can also be strewed into a song for soldiers. Where as the second song of the same title comes from Becky Hobbs and her album Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of The Cherokee. We add this version to this list in honor of all the brave Code Talkers of World War II.
During World War II, the United States Marines recruited approximately 400-500 men from various bands of Native Americans including Navaho, Lokota, Meskwaki and Comanche. These men served bravely in their standard communications units primarily in the Pacific Theater. Although, code talking was pioneered by Cherokee and Choctaw Indians during World War I, it was the code talkers of World War II that are credited in help win the Pacific Theater portion of the war.
We came across Colton James’ song “Brave Men” when we received an EP called Medal of Honor. James takes on the mentality of a soldier as he sings about his duties. This one is quite similar to that of Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” However, the song closes with an important message of giving thanks and saying a prayer for the brave men who serve.
Songwriter Lisa Carver wrote a powerful and unexpected song called “Bullets.” In this song, Lisa takes on the roll of a bullet as she gives life to this inanimate object. This is one song to seek as many of us tend to blame the guns and or bullets for their actions, when in reality these items just follow the directions of the person using them.
In 2005, Chely Wright released a very bold song called “The Bumper of My S.U.V..” In the song, Wright captures a real situation that happened to her one day.
“It’s all true. Every line of it... every part of the story of how it became a record is true as well.” claimed Chely Wright during an interview with Strictly Country in 2005. “The lady really did flip me off and she really did get me at a red light and really did point at it and say ‘the war is wrong...’ I went home and wrote the song and all the lines in it are true. I have toured for our troops since 1994. So obliviously I have been to the DMZ six times. I have been to Hiroshima and I have been to Bagdad on two tours. I’m going again in a few months. My brother is in the Marine Corps.. He did give me the sticker. My dad was in the Navy in Vietnam and Grandpa was on the beach in Normandy in the Army in W.W.II...”
Nothin’ Fancy hits our list again with another one of their songs called “Bus Fare.” Performed in a gentle two-step melody, this one reminds us that we need to take care of our soldiers as they are willing to give their lives for our freedoms.
Toby Keith lightens the mood a bit with his song “Call A Marine.” Marines are the toughest of the bunch and well, they will always have our backs when things just get a little past our own capabilities. Semper Fi!
Just when we think the subject of war is in our memories, then someone has to do something to cause another war. Jonmark Stone captures the questions behind these actions in his song “Choosin’ Up Sides.”
It is very few times that we receive Songs For Soldiers from other musical genres. In 2008, we received “Citizen Soldier” from the alternative rock band 3 Doors Down. The song was released as a single in conjunction with a United States National Guard recruitment campaign. Written by Brad Arnold, Chris Henderson, Matt Roberts and Todd Harrell, the lyrics convey the actions performed by those serving in the National Guards.
In 2008, The Oak Ridge Boys released a very powerful patriotic album called Colors. The album features twelve beautifully cut songs that speak of American pride. From this album we add the title track. Although the song refers more towards the colors of the American flag, it also speaks of the costs of freedom.
Take a moment and think about all of the brave men and women who served in our Nation’s military during war. Think of all the stories that could be and should be told about their heroism. There are so many stories to tell as each war claims lives, prisoners of war and those missing in action.
In 2007, country music entertainer John Tigert was inspired by one story—the story of Staff Sgt. Keith Matthew “Matt” Maupin. Staff Sgt. Maupin was captured on April 9, 2004, while serving in Iraq. His parents, family and friends never gave up on his return. Four years, sixteen days, eighteen hours and twenty minutes later, their son was coming home—draped with the American flag. Tigert was so inspired by the story that he wrote a song with fellow musician David Schumacher called “Coming Home.” The emotionally-rich song speaks of the soldiers in Iraq and how they will be coming home, however the heart of the song speaks of the POWs and MIAs.
In 2011, we were sent a new album by Mark Wills called Looking For America. The album features two versions of his song “Crazy Being Home,” including a full length studio version and an acoustic version. The song takes on the life of a soldier who returns to the world, back from war, and his adjustment to life.
In 2013, a wide variety of country music entertainers came together to release a collection called Divided & United: The Songs of The Civil War. On this album we found a song called “Dear Old Flag” recorded by Vince Gill. Originally it was a Civil War poem titled “For The Dear Old Flag, I Die,” written by George Cooper. It was later put to music by Stephen Foster. The song interprets the last words of a brave little drummer boy who was fatally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Many of the songs on this list refer to or were recorded during the Vietnam war era, including the next song to hit our list. Released as a single in January 1966, “Dear Uncle Sam” was recorded by Loretta Lynn. Ms. Lynn gives a commanding performance as the writer and singer in this song told from the perspective of a wife whose spouse is entering the Vietnam War. This song was the first country music song to discuss the war and it was Lynn’s first self-comprised song to enter the country music charts.
Our next discovery has been recorded by a wide variety of artists and it we can claim it as the very first song for soldiers. “The Deck of Cards” is a recitation song that became popular in both country and popular music first in the late 1940’s. It was T. Texas Tyler who wrote the spoken-word piece about a young American soldier who was arrested and charged with playing cards during a church service. However, the earliest known reference was found in a book belonging to Mary Bacon, a British farmer’s wife, dated 20 April 1762.
The song is set during World War II when a group of soldiers arrived and camped near the town of Cassino in southern Italy. A group of soldiers attends a local church service and as the scripture is read, one soldier only has a deck of playing cards and proceeds to pull them out and spread them in front of him. His sergeant spots him and believes that he is playing cards in church and orders him to put them away. The soldier is then arrested an taken before the provost marshal to be judged. The soldier explains the religious significance of each card.
It was T. Texas Tyler who made this song a hit in 1948. Hank Williams later performed it on his radio show. Williams’ version is found on a box set called Hank Williams: Mother’s Best Recordings provided by TimeLife. In 1959, Wink Martindale earned the highest-charting version of this iconic song. The latest version was recorded in 1991 by Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. Anderson’s version was updated to portray a more modern day scenario with the Iraq war. Although the song is quite popular there are several numerical flaws and slight inconsistencies within the song.
Chase Rice really did not set out to write a Song For Soldiers when he wrote “Die Tryin’.” He feels like to many entertainers write songs like these. With vast respect, he captures the essence of the typical American soldier in this heartfelt ballad.
John Anderson hits our list again, this time with his song “Freedom Isn’t Free.” In this boisterous song, John reminds us what it takes to be a free nation within it’s strong message.
Aaron Tippin hits this list with his song “Free To Be Me.” At first glance, one may question why we included this song on this list. However, once you get to the second part of the song it begins speaking about why we are free to make the decisions stated in the first part of the song. This song is performed in a feel-good melody that is sure to make your heart swell with American pride.
Can you imagine growing up knowing that both your parents were heroes? Joe Bonsall, of the Oak Ridge Boys, captures the story of his parents and their service during World War II in a song he wrote called “G.I. Joe and Lillie.” Although Joe performs the song mainly as a solo, he is still backed by his band mates in this heartfelt, true-to-life, ballad. Bonsall went on to write a book about his parents with the same title.
In 2006, Bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent released her album All American Bluegrass Girl. The album features twelve songs including two songs for soldiers. The first to hit our list is “God Bless The Soldier.” In this song, Vincent, takes us on a journey of discovering the difficulties that a person must endure as the serve in the United States Military.
Craig Morgan is no stranger to performing for his fellow soldiers. A Veteran of the United States Army, Craig tries to include a song for soldiers on each of his albums. Hitting our list is “God, Family And Country” which details the story of one man and his life, including his service during World War II. This is another song that teeters on whether or not it should be included on this list.
We find it very interesting that songs in regards to the Civil War are mainly written and recorded by Bluegrass artists. Deer Creek Boys include another song that tells a story about the Civil War in “Grey Ghost.” At the time of writing this article, we are unsure if the story, contained within the song, is true or not.
RW Hampton includes his song “Hell In A Helmet” to this list. The song was written by RW and his wife for their oldest son and the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines who were deployed to the Marjah District of Helmand Province in July 2010 through February 2011. The song displays a harshness to almost angry mentality within the performance as the lyrics talk about the mindset of a Marine.
Although April Taylor is not much of a performer, she did release a song called “Hero At Home.” We would love to hear someone else perform this beautiful song, someone like Martina McBride. This song speaks volumes about the wife who is left at home to take the responsibility of Mother and Father, while her husband is serving in war.
Rockie Lynne returns with a mid-tempo song called “Heroes Come From Small Towns.” In this song, Rockie reminds us that true heroes really are the kids next door. The ones who we went to school with, played with and knew as just average kids from the neighborhood.
In their short career together, Cowboy Crush entertained us with some incredible songs including their emotionally-rich song “He’s Coming Home.” In this song, a family watches one of their own going off to war then is praying for his safe return.
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.”
One of the most captivating Songs for Soldiers comes from the Bluegrass group Blue Highway with their song “Homeless Man.” In this compassionate and remorseful song, the band reminds us that many of our Veterans who were willing to spill their blood for our freedoms return home to become homeless and forgotten.
Another Bluegrass band, Detour, takes on the subject of homeless Veterans with their song “Homeless And The Brave.” In their song Detour demands that we take action to provide for our Veterans.
Songwriter Connie Harrington was inspired to write a very narrative emotional song called “I Drive Your Truck” after hearing an interview of a father, Paul Monti, whose son—A Medal of Honor recipient—Jared was killed in Afghanistan while trying to save a fellow soldier. In the interview, the father states that he drives the truck to feel close to his son. Connie teamed up with Jessi Alexander and Jimmy Yearly to write the song that was recorded by Lee Brice in 2012.
In 2005, Tracy Lawrence released his album Then & Now: The Hits Collection. On this album we found his song “If I Don’t Make It Back.” Written by Brett Jones and Bobby Pinson, the song tells the story of a soldier who is out with his buddy prior to being shipped off to war and how he gives his buddy explicit instructions of what to do if he doesn’t return home. The last few verses tells the story of how the buddy follows his friend’s instructions. Bobby Pinson recorded the song and released it on his 2007 album Songs For Somebody.
Darryl Worley was inspired by a Veteran he met to co-write a song with Wynn Varble with “I Just Came Back From A War” in 2006. The Veteran that Worley met was having a difficult time adjusting to life back home after being in a war zone for many months.
“It made me think about what it must be like for all the soldiers, who have served in conflicts past and present, to adjust to being back home. The strain of war must be incredible.” shares Darryl Worley. “This song is from the soldier’s perspective and the message is, ‘hey man, cut me a little slack if I need a little time to re-adjust here. I’ll get there but be a little patient with me—I just came back from a war.’”
In 1959, Johnny Horton wrote and recorded the historical song called “Johnny Reb.” In the song Horton takes into account all of the brave men who fought in the Civil War under Robert E. Lee’s direction. Some claim that Johnny Cash wrote the song, however, it is unclear who exactly penned it. Cash and Horton were close friends. This is not the only controversy surrounding this song as shortly after Horton’s death in 1960, a singer by the name of Johnny Rebel began singing and performing very racist songs. Many associated the two entertainers as one.
Collin Raye is another entertainer who took on the subject of the Civil War with his song “Josephine.” Written by Rory Lee Feek, the song speaks about a Civil War soldier who writes back to the love of his life. The song was re-recorded by Joey + Rory in 2012.
Former member of the country music group Yankee Grey, Joe Caverlee recorded the song “Land That I Love” for the Medal of Honor EP. In the song, Joe takes on the persona of a soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice and how he gave his all for the land that he loved.
In 2010, Josh Abbott band released their second album She’s Like Texas. From that album we pulled a powerful and poetic song with “Let My Tears Be Still.” In the song, Josh shares the story of a man who inspired him to write the song. A man named Lt. Col William Todd who served during World War II and Korea.
Our next song to hit this list is the title track to John Michael Montgomery’s 2004 album Letters From Home. Written by Tony Lane and David Lee, the song is a portrayal of a soldier’s life on overseas duty. Lee got the idea after seeing a soldier and his girlfriend saying goodbye at the airport.
When Connie Francis toured Vietnam during the height of the war, she gathered the letters of more than 500 service men who were mainly stationed in various hospitals. Upon her return home, she sent off the letters to their respected recipients. Many of these veterans wrote to her to thank her for her actions while in Vietnam and back home. Connie shares these letters and stories during a recording that she calls “Letters From Vets I Met In Vietnam.”
Prior to his making it in the music industry, Lucas Hoge released a powerful and harmonically rich song called “Medal of Honor.” This song captures the vast pride that many Americans feel when it comes to our soldiers.
Ernest Tubb returns with another great song called “Missing In Action.” Written by Helen Kays and Arthur Q. Smith, Tubb recorded it in 1951. Ernest takes on the role of a wounded soldier who was taken by the enemy and made a prisoner of war. The soldier escaped and returned home to find that his darling had married a different man.
In 1982, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial—The Wall—was completed. Its construction and related issues have been the source of controversy.
Jimmy Fortune, a member of the Statler Brothers, had heard about all the controversy over the monument and decided to visit The Wall to see what it was all about. It was that visit that inspired Fortune to team up with John Rimel to write the ever popular song “More Than A Name On A Wall.” In April 1989, The Statler Brothers released the song, that talks about a mother visiting the Vietnam Wall to see her son’s name. Fortune went on to re-release a solo version of the song in 2015 on his album Hits & Hymns.
“He [John Rimel] started playing the piano and playing the music; then the words just started coming out. We wrote that song, it wasn't long. It probably wasn't even an hour we finished it.” shares Jimmy. “We sit back and listened to it and we both looked at each other and went...'Wow! This is really powerful.' We felt the power of that song that it was gonna touch people in a way that it was gonna express the fact there really is some body who cares. We wanted to let them know that this country...at the time they didn't understand that war, and there was a lot of misunderstanding. Some of the soldiers were spit on when they got off the plane. As time has gone on, the majority of America does not feel that way. Majority of America loves those people and they want them to know that they suffered just like every body else in every other war. That their sacrifice was not in vain to us. It was for a purpose, because they loved this country and wanted to protect us. Not only just us, but others and that is what America is all about. They went and gave their lives just like they did in World War II and in any other war that was fought. So it was important that I felt like I need to say that.”
In 2011, Brandon Rhyder sent us his latest album called Live At Billy Bob’s Texas. The album showcased one of Brandon’s live performances. During this performance he sang his song “Mr. Soldier.” The song takes on the role of a prayer that Rhyder says for a soldier.
One can never know where an idea for a song will come from. One day Whisperin’ Bill Anderson was having a cup of coffee with a friend. The friend told him a story about a man and his old Army Hat. The story struck Anderson so hard that he just had to write a song about it. Bill teamed up with fellow songwriter Walt Aldrege to write the song “Old Army Hat.”
“It’s based on a true story. I met the son of the man that it actually happened to.” tells Whispering Bill Anderson. “In the song we took a few liberties and referred to the old soldier as my Grandfather. But, actually he was the father to a friend of mine and it really happened. He took his Dad up to Washington, to the Memorial and told his Dad not to wear that old Army hat that he wore around all the time. His Dad said ‘I’m going to wear it if I want too.’ So he wore it up there and they were just totally blown away by the response that they got; how many people stopped him on the street; and thanked him and even saluted him and all this kind of thing.”
Although “On My Side Of The World” does not totally state or make reference to the Military within the lyrics, Tammy Cochran did write the song with them in mind. The song reflects on the emotions that a soldier’s family might feel about them being in harms way.
We were surprised when we were contacted by classic rocker Eddie Money to help promote his song “One More Soldier Coming Home.” Written by Greg Stryker, Charles Alkazian and Patrick Harwood; Eddie gives a commanding performance as he sings about a hero returning home draped in the American Flag. However, we do have several problems with this song. First, Money released this song for Veterans Day and it should have been released on Memorial Day as the heart of the song is the heart of the holiday. Nonetheless, the major annoyance with this song is found in the official video. Throughout the video we found various inaccuracies that tend to destroy the message of the song. These errors include soldiers with long hair, an incorrect presentation of medals upon the soldier’s uniform, the wrong uniform, the misrepresentation of the soldiers and the inappropriate acting within the video. The worst of all, the chorus of the song speaks about a twenty-one gun salute, however the video lacks to show this honor. Eddie’s actions to record the song were honorable, nonetheless the video destroyed his respect.
Nearly one year prior to President John F. Kennedy’s assignation, Marijohn Wilkin and Fred Burch wrote the song “PT-109.” Recorded by Jimmy Dean in 1962, the song relays the story of the infamous boat that was cut in two after being rammed by a Japanese destroyer in World War II. The song continues to tell the crew’s story of survival. What is not included in the song is the story of their rescue by native islanders, Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, by canoe.
In 2010, Bluegrass group Brand New Strings released their album No Strings Attached. When we heard their song “Prayer From Home,” we knew we had to add it to this list. In this gentle song, the band shares an honest story of two lovers—one back home raising their daughter and the other serving a half of a world away. Although the song is performed in a gentle melody, the lyrics will hit you hard in your soul.
In 1974, Johnny Cash released his 47th album called Ragged Old Flag. Although the album addresses several political and ethical issues, it’s the title cut that reaches this list. Performed as a recitation, this trailblazing and thrilling song captures the heart and soul of true patriotism.
One of the most hidden treasures when it comes to Songs For Soldiers was discovered when Megan Conner released her song “Red White and Blue Night In Georgia.” In this passionate heartfelt ballad, Conner sings about a soldier who is sent to Iraq after the attacks of 9/11 and the actions back home by his wife. This emotionally-rich song will capture your heart as it relays the emotional and sentimental feelings that spouses must endure while their loved ones are serving in harms way.
This brings us to another set of songs that contain the same title but are quite different. The title is “Red White And Blue” and it should not be confused with Toby Keith’s song “Courtesy of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American).” Keith’s song is more of a political statement than a Song For Soldiers. Where as the other two are dedicated to those who served. The first comes from Rockie Lynne who’s version of the song speaks about all the various people, from all walks of the American life, who come together to serve with pride and honor to uphold our freedoms. Where as Aaron Lewis’ version takes a more personal persona as it tells a family story of his grandfather and father serving. But more so, this version talks about being raised knowing and living with American pride.
In 2008, Bluegrass group The Grascals included a Song For Soldiers on their Keep On Walkin’ called “Remembering.” Written by Harley Allen, this is a wonderful emotional tribute to a Grandfather who served in World War II, from Pearl Harbor to the beaches of Normandy and his return home to the nightmares of the war.
It takes a special person with a brave heart and a compassionate soul to serve in our nation’s military. The thing we have to remember most about our soldiers is that they did sign a contract stating that they are willing to give their lives for our freedoms.
In 2009, a new artist named Johnny Bulford released his album Livin’ It Up. On that album we found his song for soldiers with “Remember The Brave.” In this riveting song, Johnny sings about the heart of a soldier as he is willing to give it all for his family and his country.
The biggest fan favorite Song For Soldiers comes from David Ball with his song “Riding With Private Malone.” Written by Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd, it has been deemed “the country song that tapped most subtly and profoundly into the emotions of its audience” after the September 11 attacks. However, the song was actually debuted, on the Grand Ole Opry, by the songwriters nearly seven months prior to the attacks. Where as David Ball released it one month prior to September 11th. The song describes a narrator who has just finished his military service and finds a classified ad for an old car that turns out to be a 1966 Corvette. In the glove compartment he finds a note written by the car’s former owner, a Private Andrew Malone that states “If you’re reading this, then I didn’t make it home…” The rest of the song speaks about the restoration of the car and events in which the new owner believes that the previous owner is haunting the car.
One of the most recorded Songs For Soldiers is a song called “Searching For A Soldier’s Grave.” The song was written by Jim Anglin who sold the copyrights to Roy Acuff, most site both names in the credits. We can not find who originally recorded the song, however, we did find that it was recorded by many people. Those who recorded it include The Blue Sky Boys, Hank Williams, Ralph Stanley, Bailes Brothers, Lovin Brothers, Kitty Wells and even Bob Dylan recorded a version of this song. The song is about a family member who is in search for their soldier’s grave. Although the song does not make reference to the Normandy American Cemetery, one can strew it that way.
In 2011, Trace Adkins teamed up with Kenny Beard and Monty Criswell to write the song “Semper Fi.” The song is an honorable tribute to all the Marines who served and continue to serve.
The Statler Brothers return to our list with a song called “Silver Medals and Sweet Memories.” Written by member Don Reid, this song is a perfect example of the statement of “relics and remnants of war.”
When we heard the next song, we just knew that we had to learn the story behind it. As the story goes, the band Little Texas was on their way to a gig near Hayes, Kansas. As they approached the town, they saw thousands of flags lining the streets. Upon arrival the learned that they were mere miles ahead of the funeral procession for Army Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols.
"How the whole county turned out all the way down the road... It was literally five or six miles down the road, this was going on. For a small county like that, you just don't see that any where. But, everybody's just lined up along side of the roads, with American flags and all that..." tells Duane Propes of Little Texas Band. "With just a little bit of research and at that time there wasn't a whole lot there. We asked a lot of people that day about it and got a lot of information. So we wrote the song and then later on went to meet his family, two years later."
We were so touched by the song “Slow Ride Home” and the story behind the song that we went to the Board of Directors for The Spirit Awards and requested an award just for Songs For Soldiers. In 2017, The Spirit Awards announced the winner of the first ever Spirit of America Award… stating that fans had officially voted to present the award to “Slow Ride Home” by Little Texas.
The next two songs that hit our list go by the same name, “Soldier Song,” nonetheless are two different songs. The first was released in 2011 by Steve Azar. Steve was asked to write a song for a charity event for the Wounded Warriors Project. Steve was inspired by the economics of a soldier as well as his own personal experiences of being away from home to write the song. Nearly one year later Tom and Mike Gossin of Gloriana were inspired to write their song after spending two weeks aboard the aircraft carriers USS Harry Truman and The USS Abraham Lincoln, living amongst the troops. The song was also inspired by the fact that both the brothers’ Grandfathers served in World War II and some of their cousins have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both songs are quite unique and beautiful.
Our next song comes from James Otto with “Soldiers and Jesus.” The premise of this heartfelt ballad is that there are two people who are willing to die for us—soldiers and Jesus.
Another poignant song to hit our list comes from Ernest Tubb with “Soldier’s Last Letter.” Shortly after the attacks of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Redd Stewart was drafted into the United States Army and sent to the South Pacific. While serving there as the rank of Sergeant, Redd wrote the song “Soldiers Last Letter.” Ernest Tubb got a hold of the song and worked on it until he recorded it in 1944. The song is a heart wrenching ballad about a mother reading the very last letter her soldier son ever wrote. Shortly after that, Hank Snow recorded his version. Being from Canada, Hank changed the last line of the song to relate to his fellow Canadians. The most recent version was recorded in 1970 by Merle Haggard.
Barry Gibb, one of the founding members of the group the Bee Gees, wrote a song called “Soldier’s Son.” It is unknown to us when Gibb wrote the song, nonetheless he did record it for his 2016 album. But it was Ricky Skaggs version, which includes Gibb’s vocals, that we came across in 2012.
In 1989, a new male vocalist hit the country music scenes with an album called Some Gave All. The album flew to the top of the charts due to another song. Nonetheless, when you break Billy Ray Cyrus down to reveal his person truth it’s his song “Some Gave All” that shows us the real man that he is. Cyrus wrote the song with his first wife Cindy Smith after talking with a Vietnam Veteran. The heartfelt ballad resonates through the souls of Vietnam Veterans especially with the line “All Gave Some, Some Gave All.”
On February 23, 1945, a photographer named Joe Rosenthal took the iconic picture of five Marines raising a United States flag atop Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Two months later, Bob Wills released a song called “Stars And Stripes On Iwo Jima.” Written by Wills and Cliff Johnsen, also known as Cactus Jack, the song pays tribute to all the brave men who were killed during the battle. It is estimated that 6,821 American soldiers were killed in the nearly two month battle.
Paulette Carlson, of the group Highway 101, knew first hand what it was like to have a family member serve in Vietnam. She also knew the grief, heartache and disrespect Vietnam Veterans would often receive. In 2005, Carlson showed her vast appreciation for those who served in Vietnam, including her brother, in a song she wrote and recorded called “Thank You Vets.”
It always amazes us how the general public can construe a song to mean something totally different than the writer(s) meant it to be. This is the case of the song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree.” Written by Irwin Levine and L Russell Brown, the original version of the song was recorded by the group Dawn featuring Tony Orlando. The synopsis of the song is told from a person who has “done his time” but is uncertain if he will be welcomed home. He writes to the love of his life and asks her to tie a yellow ribbon around the ole oak tree in the front of the house if she is willing to welcome him home.
“The is NOT the story of a convict who had told his love to tie a ribbon to a tree outside of town! I know because I wrote the song one morning in 15 minutes with the late lyrical genius Irwin Levine.” shares L. Russell Brown. “The genesis of this idea came from the age old folk tale about a Union prisoner of war—who sent a letter to his girl that he was coming home from a confederate POW camp in Georgia...Anything about a criminal is pure fantasy…”
The origin of the yellow ribbon as remembrance may have begun during the Civil War. Allegedly it was a practice of women to wear a yellow ribbon in their hair to signify their devotion to a husband and or sweetheart serving in the U.S. Cavalry.
There is much controversy around the song, to much to go into here in this article. Nonetheless, many artists have recorded the song over the years including Johnny Carver, Jim Nabors, Kay Starr, Lawrence Welk, Bobby Goldsboro and Connie Francis.
Many of the songs included on this list tell the stories of real American heroes. Folk singer Peter La Farge tells the story of Ira Hayes in his song “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” Hayes was one of the six Marines who became famous for taking parting in the infamous flag raising on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Hayes could not deal with his popularity upon returning home and ended up dying of exposure to cold and alcohol poisoning in 1955. La Farge, captured Ira’s story in a song that was recorded by many other entertainers including Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Kinky Friedman and Kris Kristofferson.
War is never a popular subject. Perhaps the most unpopular war was the Vietnam war as the truth is that America should have never been a part of this conflict. In January of 1966, Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler was recuperating from a leg wound that he suffered as a medic in Vietnam when he teamed up with Robin Moore to write one of the few popular songs that cast a positive light on the military. The song “The Ballad of The Green Berets,” was written in honor of Green Beret US Army Specialist 5 James Gabriel, Jr; the first native Hawaiian to die in Vietnam. One verse did mention Gabriel by name, but it was never used in the recorded version.
One of the most comical Songs For Soldiers is “The Battle of New Orleans.” Written by Jimmy Driftwood, the song describes the 1815 Battle of New Orleans from the perspective of an American soldier. Driftwood was a Arkansas principal with a passion for history and was attempting to get his students interested in learning history, therefore wrote the song. The song was banned by Britain as the British forces suffered major losses during the battle. It is estimated that the British lost 2,036 men while the Americans lost only 71, while under command of future President Andrew Jackson.
The song has been recorded by many artists, however, the singer most often associated with this song is Johnny Horton who released it in 1959. Other recordings were made by Johnny Cash, Leon Russell, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Dolly Parton.
In 2015, we came across another song that teeters on whether or not we should include on this list. The song “The Colors That Never Ran” by Tammy Jones Robinette speaks of the colors of the American flag, but also references to the soldiers who never ran and died fighting for our freedoms.
Tammy returns with another song called “The Letters.” In this heartfelt ballad she sings about the relics of letters that were written by a soldier to his mother back home. The son never returns home, leaving his mother with only the letters to remember him by.
Our next song, “The Last Parade,” was released in 2014 by Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers. Written by Steve Bonafel, the song is in honor of Sergeant Nickolas Carnes of Dayton, Kentucky who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007. The song recounts the writer’s thoughts and feelings as he attends the soldier’s funeral.
Nothin’ Fancy returns to this list with another song about the Civil War. “The Legend of Long Mountain” is written by band member Caleb Cox and Wade Cox and tells a tale of a battle that took place on a mountain. It is uncertain if the tale is based on a true story.
In 2004, Josh Gracin released his debut self-entitled album which was recorded while he was still serving in the Marine Corps. Closing out the album was a song written by Candy Cameron and Curtis Wright called “The Other Little Soldier.” This heartfelt ballad tells the story of a boy who emulates his father, who is a soldier. The boy watches as his father leaves for war and he watches as his father returns in a flag covered pine box. The song is one of a few that reminds us that even the littlest family member is effected by war.
Hugh Prestwood is no stranger to country music as he has written a wide variety of songs for many different entertainers. Nonetheless, his most memorable song would have to be “The Snow White Rows of Arlington.” Recorded by Sammy Kershaw and released in 2010, the song gives a haunting depiction of the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.
As much as all of these songs mean so much to us, one stands out amongst the others. In 2011, Strictly Country’s Editor Gina Kay Singerhouse wrote a Blog on our website called The Lone Soldier. Bluegrass singer and songwriter, Mark ‘Brink’ Brinkman was inspired by the article that he wrote a song called “The Spirit 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. I felt I HAD to write a song about that. It is powerful idea but with so much truth! I hope the song brings that feeling out in the listener. That it will inspire folks to think about the reason we are free…the reason we can live our lives the way we do.”
In 2004, John Conlee released his Gospel album called Turn Your Eyes To Jesus. On the album John includes a special song that is quite dear to his heart called “They Also Serve.” Written by Tony Seibert and Jerry Holthouse, the songs speaks volumes about what a soldier’s family is going through while their loved one is serving in harms way.
“That’s one thing that makes the song more personal to me.” sighed John. “Because now my wife and I, and his sisters are the subject of the song. We’re families waiting behind. That’s why I know what folks are going through.”
The story behind Trace Adkins’ song “Til The Last Shot’s Fired” is one that goes all the way to the Pentagon. Written by Rob Crosby and Doug Johnson, the song speaks of a soldier’s purgatory and how the fallen can not rest until the last shot is fired and the world finally finds peace.
Rhonda Vincent returns to this list with her song “Till They Came Home.” Written by Byron Hill and Mike Dekle, the song brings us through World War II, Vietnam and the war in Iraq as it tells several stories. The heart of the song is found in the chorus…
Some came home as heroes
Proud to be back
Some came home as heroes
Covered with the flag
Mike Andes, the lead vocalist of the Bluegrass group Nothin’ Fancy, wrote our next song. “To Lay My Weapon Down,” is an up beat song that tells the story of a man heading off to war.
One of the most prolific songs for soldiers comes from Bluegrass group Blue Highway with “Two Soldiers.” Written by Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes, the song tells the story of two Causality Notification Officers.
“I was watching CNN one day and heard a story similar to this. Two soldiers just stuck in my head. ” shares 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.”
It is this song that we often refer to when creating our annual Memorial Day Honors issue, due to it’s pure heart and soul that reminds us of the truth about this honorable day.
In 2008, we were introduced to Mark Erelli when he sent us his album Delivered. On this album we found a song that he wrote with Peter Nelson called “Volunteers.” In this song, Mark takes us on a very personal account of serving in the military during the war on terrorism. We question whether or not we should include this song on this list, but we do so as it shares a true account of real life while serving in war.
Our final Christmas song that falls on this list comes from 3 Fox Drive with Charlie Daniels in their song “Watching Over The Soldiers At Christmas.” Written by Dennis Morgan and Kim Fox, this is a gentle song that speaks about how the flag watches over the soldiers during Christmas. Charlie Daniels adds a nice recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance towards the end of the song.
Hank Williams Jr is quite vocal when it comes to political agendas. In his 2012 song “We Don’t Apologize For America,” he sings about how we need to stand behind our Soldiers and Veterans as well as our country.
In 2003, Dolly Parton released her album For God And Country. The album features a wide variety of patriotic songs including her self-penned song “Welcome Home.” The premise of the song speaks about a father who is waiting for his soldier son to return from war. Nonetheless the heart of the song contains a religious mentality as it speaks about Jesus being nailed to the cross. In 2012, Bluegrass duo Daily & Vincent released their cover version of the song.
Our next song is a song based on a true story about a Vietnam Veteran called “Wes Tyrell.” We were introduced to this song in 2004 by Christopher Wayne Morris when he released it as a single. It us unknown to us who wrote this riveting song, however, we do know that Buddy Jewell released his version in 2011.
Ernest Tubb returns to our list with a song about heartbreak in “When A Soldier Knocks and Finds Nobody Home.” Written by Tubb, Moon Mullican and Lou Wayne; the song was released in 1957 as part of his The Daddy of ‘Em All album.
In 2009, former Kansas City Royals Baseball player Derek Sholl released his self-entitled debut album. On that album was his tribute to the troops with “When They Come Back.” The song discusses the difficulties that soldiers have to face when they return from war.
There is some confusion as to where our next song comes from. The song “Where Is My Sailor Boy,” speaks about a parent looking for their deceased sailor. We were first introduced to this song through an album of live performances of Bill Monroe and Doc Watson. However, in our research we found that The Monroe Brothers released it in 1937, while The Delmore Brothers released it in 1938. We also found that Connie Francis released a version of the song as well. Either way, it is a humble but sad song to add to this list.
In 2014, Donna Hughes released her album From The Heart. Although the record label paid more attention to another song, it was her song “Where The Good Daddies Go” that hits our list. The premise of this heartfelt ballad is a boy who grows up with out his Daddy, because his Daddy died as a hero in a war. One can find this a healing song for all the little boys who must face this type of pain in their young lives.
It was no April fools joke when American troops invaded the island of Okinawa in 1945, during World War II. The Battle on Okinawa lasted until June 22, 1945, and was claimed as the ‘bloodiest battles in the Pacific’ as over 12,000 Americans were killed in action.
In 1945, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys released a song called “White Cross On Okinawa.” Written by Cliff Johnsen, Cliff Sundin and James Wills; the song speaks about a mother’s grief over losing her son during the battle.
There’s a white cross tonight on Okinawa
And a gold star in some mother’s home
Prior to writing his song “The Spirit of The Lone Soldier,” Mark ‘Brink’ Brinkman had written a huge collection of songs. In 2010, Brink released sixteen of these songs on his album titled On The Brink Of A Dream. On this album we found “With Love From Normandy” a song written in honor of his Grandfather. This is another significant song that speaks volumes about the ‘relics and remnants’ of war.
In 2015, Aaron Tippin celebrated his 25th year in the music industry. To honor this occasion, he released a two-disc box set appropriately titled 25. The first disc contained a collection of his well known hits, while the second contained new hits. It’s from the new hits portion that we found “Without A Kiss.” Written by Tippin and Jon Ritter, this is another that teeters on whether or not it should be on this list. The song tells the story of how a mother will not let people go without a kiss. It’s in the middle of the song where we find our reference to the soldier as it tells how the mother can not let her son go off to serve without a kiss.
It is this verse within this song that reminds us of all the mothers who gave their sons and daughters a kiss before they let them go off to war.
Our final song to hit this list comes from an unknown artist named DeAnne Moore called “Wrote That In Blue.” This is another song that refers to the children who are left at home, while their soldier father is serving in harms way. In this heartfelt and emotional ballad, the child writes to her father a letter using various colors from her box of Crayons.
It is hard to imagine this list being complete as each day we come across another song worthy of being added to this list. Each week we try to play one of these songs on our weekly radio show—Around The Campfire. You can always see the updated list on our website at www.Strictly-Country.com/songsaboutsoldiers.html If you find a song that you feel is worthy of adding to this list, please contact us and we will be happy to take it into consideration.
In some attic in somewhere in America, there is a cardboard box that has been forgotten as it is covered with decades of dust. It is through the loss of a loved one that we uncover the relics and remnants of war. If only they would have shared these artifacts and told their stories...perhaps they would have found peace.
(This article was printed in the 14th Annual Memorial Day Honors May - June 2017 Special issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
The Blue Star Service Banner…
The banner to the right and the colored banner on the front cover, is called a Blue / Gold Star Service Banner. It was designed and patented in 1917 by W.W.I. Army Capt. Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry. Capt. Queissner had two sons who were serving on the front line. Soon after it quickly became the unofficial symbol of a child in the service.
On September 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read “...The Mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the Governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother - their children.” This statement was entered in the Congressional Record.
It was during W.W.II that the Department of War issued specifications on the manufacturing of the flag. It also set guidelines indicating when and by whom the Service flag could be flown or the Service Lapel button could be worn. These guidelines were updated again on December 1, 1967, which implemented an Act of Congress.
The flag contains a blue star. The star represents one family member serving in the armed forces. A banner can hold up to five blue stars. One for each member currently in Military uniform on active duty.
If the individual symbolized is killed or dies while serving the star representing that individual will receive a gold star. The gold star will be placed in the direct center of the blue star, leaving room on all edges to see the blue. Different rules apply for the banners with multiple stars.
The Blue Star Service Banner helped establish other organizations. Organizations such as Blue Star Mothers and Gold Star Mothers. These organizations were established during W.W.I. and some remain active today.
The Blue Star Service Banner was widely used across America. Families proudly displayed the banner in their front windows during W.W.I. and W.W.II.. The spirit of the banner diminish some during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
However, shortly after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the banner was rekindled. Today the American Legion is rekindling the spirit of pride in our military men and women. The Legion is providing families in communities across America with the Blue Star Service Banner. The Legion also has a special Blue Star Banner Corporate Flag for Government and Corporate America to show their support for employees called to active duty in the war against terrorism.
On April 21, 2010, the United States House of Representatives passed House Resolution 855, to recognize The Silver Star. Silver stars among the banner represent those discharged from service due to wounds or being invalided home. Silver Star Service Banner Day is celebrated on May 1st. Many states have also recognized the banner among vehicle license plates.
To purchase your Blue Star Service Banner call 1-888-453-4466 or goto www.legion.org
Left On The Tombstone…
One day a boy was visiting a grave yard with his parents. This boy became very bored and began to explore, as little boys do.
He happened to come upon a man, ragged and worn. He watched with great curiosity as the man placed something upon the tombstone in front of him. The man began to leave and the boy walked over to see what the man left on the small white tombstone. It was a coin and the little boy was eager to take it.
As he reached up with his little hand to grab the coin, he heard a voice behind him.
“Son, you do not want to steal that coin.” said the boy’s father.
“Why not?” asked the little boy.
“You see son, that coin has a special meaning.” said the boy’s father.
Eager to learn what the coin meant, the boy looked at his father with questioning eyes. The boy’s father grabbed his son’s hand and began to walk through the cemetery.
“You see son, as you look upon the tombstones of this cemetery, you will see that many are adorned with flowers and other decorations. This is to pay respect for our loved ones buried here.
A rock placed upon a tombstone is a Jewish tradition that is honored by all. It lets the family know that someone has visited their loved one’s grave.
But a coin left on a headstone, well that’s a message to the deceased soldier’s family that someone has visited the grave to pay respect.”
“You mean a soldier is buried there?” asked the boy.
“Yes, son. A soldier. Let’s see what kind of coin that was left behind...”
The father brought his son back to the tombstone. Lying on top of the stone was a quarter.
“Wow, it’s a quarter!” replied the boy.
“Wow indeed son. You see, leaving a penny sends the family a message that you visited. A nickel indicates that you and the deceased trained at boot camp together. A dime, well that means that the two of you served together in some capacity.”
“What about a quarter?” asked the boy.
“A quarter, well son... that means that this man was with this soldier when he died.”
The little boy looked at the tombstone of the deceased soldier. He bowed his head and then placed his hand on the tombstone, like he saw the ‘visitor’ do. He then looked up at his father.
“Can I have a penny?” asked the boy.
“Why son?” asked the father.
“I want to tell the family I visited.”
Proud of his son, the father reached in his pocket and pulled out several pennies. He watched as his son picked up a single penny and placed it on top of the tombstone.
His son’s actions brought him back to when he was just a lad and his father explained why he had place several coins on the tombstone of a friend whom he served with. In his mind, he could still hear his own father’s voice as he said...
“Son, I leave these coins upon my friend’s tombstone as a down payment to buy him a beer, the next time I see him.”
- Author Unknown
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