Friday Five: Veterans Day
In honor of Veterans Day, some of the Engine 145 crew wrote about their own favorite soldier songs. Here they are, in alphabetical order by staff member. To all who have served: thank you.
The song, and brilliant hit record made of it, are about the specific, tangible, actual soldier, in a situation that is made utterly real in a few lines, with remarkable singing, and groundbreaking orchestration for a country record. It’s just about everything country music can be and say for the soldier himself. It’s not about a cause, or phony posturing (it’s even adult enough to admit the soldier is afraid) or a rallying cry for either of those. Glen Campbell’s long been an outspoken Republican–but one, by the way, who also recorded Buffy Sainte-Marie’s pacifist-leaning protest song “Universal Solider”. It’s not even necessarily about a specific war–though it wasn’t and couldn’t have been taken as being about anything but Vietnam when it came out (Campbell said he was thinking Spanish-American War himself, whatever Jimmy Webb, the composer, may have had in mind). There has never been any better way to honor actual soldiers than to bother to get over ourselves and recall, consider and empathize with their unvarnished realities and sacrifices. This is the way country music can do that. –Barry Mazor
This is a heartbreaking tale of a man who is forever memorialized in one of the most iconic photos ever taken and the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington. Ira Hayes was a Native American and one of the Marines who took part in the second flag-raising on Iwo Jima. This song, written by Peter La Farge, tells Hayes’ story: when he came home, he was “celebrated through the land.” But not long after, he succumbed to alcoholism and passed away in 1955: “He died drunk one morning/Along the land he fought to save/Two inches of water in a lonely ditch/Was a grave for Ira Hayes.” –Juli Thanki
3. Garth Brooks – “Belleau Wood”
Part Christmas song and part historic story-song, “Belleau Wood” beautifully contrasts the benevolence and horror of war. The setting is a Christmas night along the front lines of France in World War I. For a moment, both sides come together to celebrate a commonality of faith before “the battlefield where heaven stood was blown to hell again.” Very few songs have ever shown both a level of humanity and the brutality of warfare as well as this one. –Ken Morton, Jr.
Steve Earle has written a flurry of topical songs in the post Iraq War era, but on this track from Copperhead Road, he goes back a generation or two to sing about a soldier who came to England to fight in World War II and came home with a wife. And if you’re going to sing about a group of soldiers the British criticized as “overpaid, oversexed and over here,” who better to back you than The Pogues, one of the best and most raucous rock & roll bands around –Sam Gazdziak
1. Here’s where you come in. Comment below (be sure to leave a valid email address) with your favorite soldier song and why you find it meaningful and be entered to win a copy of country singer/former Army Ranger Keni Thomas’ book Get It On!: What It Means to Lead the Way. Two winners will be announced on Monday, November 15 at noon Eastern.
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