Country songs are often a mirror to the world, a reflection of the times. As a tribute to the men and women who have served our country, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite songs and videos that honor our troops – heartfelt compositions that look at war through the eyes of the men and women who fight, as well as the families who are left behind to pray that their loved ones return home safely. If you don’t see your favorite on our list, leave us a comment below and let us know!
We at GAC extend our sincerest thanks and appreciation to all soldiers and their families!
“‘Til the Last Shot’s Fired” – Trace Adkins
This heartfelt song is about the life of soldiers through various wars, starting with America’s Civil War and continuing through our current conflicts in the Middle East. Trace Adkins conveys the soldiers’ fervent wish that their job would at some point be eliminated for good. Trace delivers as only Trace can.
“American Soldier” – Toby Keith
This song depicts the everyday life of a soldier, from not being able to call in sick to working through the holidays while standing up for liberty. Toby never fails to bring the soldiers to their feet when he performs this one on his many USO tours.
“Angel Flight” – Radney Foster/Darius Rucker
The title of this song refers to the flight on which a soldier killed in war comes home. Radney wrote the song with Darden Smith, then asked Darius Rucker to sing on it with him. The song was inspired by a series of Angel Flights that brought home a group of men known as the Red River Four. Proceeds from sales of the song benefit the groups who help families in crisis.
“Letters From Home” – John Michael Montgomery
John Michael found a good one when he recorded this! “Letters From Home” is a touching story of a soldier who loves to get those letters from his loved ones, even if his buddies do tease him about them and his southern accent. The song contains some of the most chilling words ever written. I fold it up and put it in my shirt/pick up my gun and get back to work. Think about that for a minute.
“Galveston” – Glen Campbell
One of the quintessential songs from the Vietnam War era, written by Jimmy Webb and delivered so eloquently by Glen Campbell. Here’s a man far away from home, thinking of the girl left behind. It never says war or Vietnam, but when he references cannons and being afraid to die, the listener at the time the tune came out had to know it was about a soldier in Vietnam.
“Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” – Toby Keith
This song brought a lot of controversy for Toby Keith but as usual, he paid it no mind. It was written for his father after 9/11 happened, and the singer wasn’t really planning to record it for the public to hear. He was finally persuaded that it would be a song that would resonate with his fans, so he recorded it. It’s another one that brings soldiers and civilians to their feet when he performs it.
“Sink the Bismark” – Johnny Horton
This is a history lesson in song, as Johnny recounts the story of how the great German battleship Bismark was sunk, but not before she brought down many Allied ships, including the American ship the Hood. This singer was known for his story songs and he delivers on this one – the listener can feel the fervor of taking down the Bismark before she has the chance to attack again.
“The Ballad of Ira Hayes” – Johnny Cash
One of the most moving songs about a soldier and what can happen when they return from war. Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian who helped raise the flag at Iwo Jima during World War II. He never came to grips with his fame after a photo taken by Jim Rosenthal went around the world. Hayes sunk into alcoholism and died of that disease and exposure in January, 1955, just 10 years after Iwo Jima. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
“Bumper of My SUV” – Chely Wright
A true story, Chely wrote this song after her brother sent her a Marine Corp. bumper sticker, which she affixed to her SUV. Driving down West End Avenue in Nashville, she was unceremoniously given the finger by some women who obviously didn’t have a clue. Chely went right home and wrote the song, then forgot about it until a few years later, when she pulled it out and recorded it. Semper Fi!
“If I Don’t Make it Back” – Tracy Lawrence
This song, written from the perspective of a young man who has not yet left for war, is one that is bittersweet as the lyrics progress to the inevitable end. It’s a heartbreaker for the friends who were left behind and the woman who can’t move on just yet. Unfortunately it’s a story that happens all too often these days.
“Traveling Soldier” – Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks’ harmonies on this song add to the beautiful but sad story of a young girl who meets a soldier just as he’s heading for war. Despite well-meant warnings from her friends, she is enveloped in her first love, with a man she barely knows, and vows to wait for him. She holds true to her promise, until one evening at a high school football game, when his name is called among those hometown boys who died in war. Ironically, this is the song the trio had out when lead singer Natalie Maines made her comments about then-President George Bush, and the tune was pulled from many radio stations across the country despite its relevance at the time.
“Arlington” – Trace Adkins
A beautiful song about a soldier coming home to his small plot of land at Arlington National Cemetery. It is so well written that it takes the listener a while to realize the soldier has been killed in battle and is not coming home to the white house upon the hill. It was the second single from Trace’s album Songs About Me.
“I Just Came Back From A War” – Darryl Worley
Darryl Worley has never been afraid to express his feelings, and in this tune he describes how a soldier feels when he or she comes back from experiencing war. While the soldiers are thrilled to be home and happy to see their friends, they know they are forever changed because of what they have seen and done. Sometimes that’s a hard thing for those around them to grasp. This soldier realizes that and tries to explain it as best he can with the words that are the title to the song.
“Heroes” – Ray Stephenson
Ray Stephenson may not be a household name, but he has already penned songs for Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Steve Holy and John Anderson. He co-wrote this tune, from his upcoming album, with Jeremy Campbell and Guy Clark. It is the story of a soldier coming home after war who’s treated like a hero. What the people around him have to understand is, sometimes even heroes need help to fight the demons that came home with them.
“Battle of New Orleans” – Johnny Horton
Another great story song and history lesson by Johnny Horton about the battle fought on January 8, 1815 when General Andrew Jackson defeated a British Army that wanted to seize the city and claim the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. The battle is considered to be one of the greatest land victories by the U.S. of the war, and the intensity of the battle is depicted in the lyrics of the tune. It was actually written by a high school teacher, Jimmy Driftwood, to teach his class a history lesson.
“8th of November” – Big and Rich
Introduced by Kris Kristofferson, this video tells the story of Niles Harris and the 173rd Airborne Brigade that was ambushed on November 8, 1965 by 1200 Viet Cong, with 48 American soldiers losing their lives. Big Kenny and John Rich met Harris and were so intrigued by his story that they wrote this song about him.
“When They Come Back” – Derek Sholl
Derek Sholl wrote this tune with Tim Johnson after getting back from an Armed Forces Entertainment tour. The song has been adopted by The Boot Campaign as its anthem, as it delves into what happens with soldiers when they come back from the battlefront and begin to assimilate back into their normal life. “We hope that by listening to the song people become aware of the sacrifices military men and women have made, and know that they can help them.”
“Just a Dream” – Carrie Underwood
This song is the story of a young man and woman who marry just before he goes off to war. The video is very well done, taking Carrie from being the blushing bride in the beginning to the grieving widow at the end. Carrie puts a lot of feeling into delivering the story of the young bride and groom. Try to watch this video without crying!
“Riding with Private Malone” – David Ball
Every list has to have one ghost story, and this one has a special twist at the end. The story of the young soldier who doesn’t return from war but leaves a note in his beloved car is a classic, and David Ball delivers it with all the seriousness the writers intended. It’s cool enough that the ‘old chevrolet’ is a Corvette, but then the story takes a few turns as it leads up to the ending. It’s a wonder this hasn’t been made into a movie.
“Soldier’s Last Letter” – Merle Haggard/Ernest Tubb
This song was recorded by several people after its initial release by Ernest Tubb, who co-wrote the song with Redd Stewart in 1941. It went to No. 1 on the country charts in 1944 toward the end of World War II, and was also a Top 20 pop hit. Merle had a hit single with the tune in 1970 during the Vietnam war, when it went to No. 3 on the country charts. Unfortunately for civilization, a song that has a universal message such as this one can be repeated as long as war continues to be the way countries settle arguments.
Based on fan response to this post, there is one more video we should add so here you go…