10 Memorial Day Songs That Will Force You to Stop and Thank a Veteran

by Jennifer Paccione

It’s Memorial Day….which, for most of us, has come to symbolize the first weekend of summer, a long, 3-day weekend, retail shopping sales, and enjoying indulgent picnic food at our favorite park/watering hole or in our backyards.

But what is Memorial Day?  It’s a day set aside to honor those courageous men and women who served, fought, and died during their service to their country.  We often take this for granted as we freely surf the internet, speak our minds on social media, or even leave our house whenever we feel like it.  We don’t have to look far to see how other countries like Ukraine or Israel have suffered, so we must remember those U.S. soldiers who gave us the freedoms we enjoy today.

Here are ten songs, in no particular order, that will give you a sobering glimpse of the soldier’s experience and the high price paid for your freedom.  These poignant, powerful, and sometimes even political songs will make your hot-dog-eating holiday all the more meaningful.WARNING:  some videos contain themes of war and violence.

1. “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden: This classic metal anthem is inspired by a battle from the Crimean War.  With its fierce, galloping rhythm and lyrics, it gives a snapshot of the conflicts and courage of soldiers.

2. “Hero of War” by Rise Against This piercing rock ballad talks about one soldier’s initial beliefs and ideals about war and his journey into new truths.

3. “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen: This popular pop song became the new “Star-Spangled Banner” for Americans in the 80s.  But don’t be fooled by its catchy, upbeat feel.  The song reveals some harsh truths about a soldier’s harrowing experiences and struggles after his homecoming from the Vietnam War.

4. “Rooster” by Alice in Chains: Inspired by the father of the band’s guitarist, this song paints some vivid details of the struggles and thoughts of one soldier during the Vietnam War.

5. “Goodnight Saigon” by Billy Joel: In this tear-jerker of a ballad, the song invokes soldiers’ much-needed bonds of camaraderie to help them get through the desperate harshness of war.

6. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival: A 60’s protest song, it is a scathing rant on those who did not come from wealthy or political families and thus were thrown into the war by being drafted. 

7. “One” by Metallica: Inspired by the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” by Dalton Trumbo, the song deeply looks at one severely wounded soldier’s inner conflicts.  It also underscores the dehumanizing aspect of war and social/ethical issues.

8. “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)” by Toby Keith: A patriotic country song that fiercely defends the values of the United States.

9. “Arlington” by Trace Adkins: This extremely moving country ballad is spoken through the voice of a fallen soldier buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.

10. “Civil War” by Guns N’ Roses:  This powerful rock ballad explores themes of conflict, social injustice, and the high price soldiers pay.

….oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

over the land of the free  

and the home of the brave?

(taken from “The Star-Spangled Banner” written by Francis Scott Key) 

…you bet your sweet combat boots it does.  Thank a veteran for all the freedoms you enjoy in the USA, either in person or through social media.  

Now go grill some burgers and enjoy that freedom to the fullest.

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