Memorial Day is certainly our national time to honor and remember the women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. But it isn’t the only time for us to honor and remember those brave soldiers. Part of what makes the country music community so great is the commitment that both artists and fans have to our troops. And as a reminder of that commitment, here are eight moving country songs that honor our fallen military heroes.
8. Billy Ray Cyrus, “Some Gave All”
“All gave some, and some gave all” begins this beautiful 1992 ballad by Billy Ray Cyrus. The song was the title track for his debut album that year. The debut single from Some Gave All was, of course, Cyrus’ smash hit “Achy Breaky Heart.” That song tore up the charts all over the world. It was even the first song to achieve Platinum status in Australia.
Unlike the campy “Achy Breaky Heart,” the story of “Some Gave All” is a much more somber–and substantive–one. The song explicitly mourns the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform. But it goes even further. “Some Gave All” specifically mentions one particular individual, Sandy Cane. And given that Billy Ray and his ex-wife, Cindy Cyrus, co-wrote the song, we imagine it had to be someone they both knew and treasured.
7. John Michael Montgomery, “Letters From Home”
Tony Lane and David Lee wrote this 2004 ballad that turned out to be John Michael Montgomery’s highest-charting hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song is about a soldier receiving letters from home, and the importance of that to his morale during his time overseas. It reminds us that it isn’t just important that we hear from those we love while they are away. It reminds us that us how important we are to them staying in touch with home and the ones they miss.
In an interview, John Michael Montgomery recalled the impact of the song. “I went to Ft. Hood,” he said. “And I met a father there who told me, ‘I lost my son.’ And they thanked me for the song. It’s just one of those special songs.”
6. Tim McGraw, “If You’re Reading This”
The is certainly one of the more somber songs that reminds us of the sacrifices our military makes. Tim McGraw co-wrote the song with Brad and Brett Warren. They wrote the song from the perspective of a fallen soldier who is speaking to his parents his last words.
“So lay me down / In that open field out on the edge of town / And know my soul / Is where my momma always prayed / That it would go / And if you’re reading this / I’m already home“
Rolling Stone rated “If You’re Reading This” as No. 29 on their list of the 40 saddest country songs.
5. Toby Keith, “American Soldier”
Keith’s “American Soldier” is one of Toby Keith’s uber-patriotic anthems that celebrates the hard work of our military.
“I’m an American soldier, an American / Beside my brothers and my sisters / I will proudly take a stand / When liberty’s in jeopardy / I will always do what’s right / I’m out here on the front lines sleep in peace tonight / American soldier, I’m an American soldier”
Keith and Chuck Cannon wrote “American Soldier” together and Keith spent four weeks at the top of the charts with it. Keith is also well-known for performing for military overseas, and this song is one of the favorites.
4. Trace Adkins, “Still A Soldier”
Similar to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier,” “Still A Soldier” honors the dedication of military servicemen and women. And it acknowledges that being a solider isn’t just a job–it’s a life and an identity.
As Taste of Country described the video for this song: “The video for the patriotic song follows the day-to-day life of an Iraq veteran who has returned home and resumed his normal life with his wife and son, but is “still a soldier” at heart, still feeling an unending sense of kinship with those who are currently serving in hot spots around the world. It’s a great idea for a video, but it’s made even more powerful by the fact that the star of the video is a real-life veteran, Army Specialist Bryan Gerwitz.”
3. Keith Urban, “For You”
Urban included “For You” on his 2012 Act of Valor: The Album. Keith Urban explained to The Boot what inspired him to write the song.
After seeing ‘Act of Valor,’ my co-writer [Monty Powell] and I wanted to capture the essence of not only what these men and women do so extraordinarily, but how that relates to all of us,” he shared. “‘Valor’ shows us what they are willing to give their all for, which made me wonder, ‘What am I willing to give my life for?’ ‘For You’ is intended to allow the listener to define who that is for them.”
Additionally, Urban donated all proceeds from the song to the Navy SEAL Foundation.
2. Lee Brice, “I Drive Your Truck”
Brice didn’t write this song, but he did record it and release it in 2012 as part of his Hard 2 Love album. This song looks at ways that we remember our fallen loved ones and what we do to remain close to them. The narrator describes driving his brother’s truck as a means of staying near to him.
“I drive your truck / I roll every window down and I burn up / Every back road in this town / I find a field, I tear it up / Till all the pain’s a cloud of dust / Yeah, sometimes I drive your truck.”
1. Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the U.S.A.”
One of the most patriotic songs of all time, Lee Greenwood made an entire career with “God Bless the U.S.A.” Played at sporting events and rodeos around the country, virtually every knows the words to this one.
Greenwood released the hit in 1984. He explained the story of the enduring hit to The Boot. “I wanted to write it my whole life. When I got to that point, we were doing 300 days a year on the road, and we were on our fourth or fifth album on MCA. I called my producer, and I said, “I have a need to do this.” I’ve always wanted to write a song about America, and I said, “We just need to be more united.”