Hero of War

Hero of War

In 2003 a United States led coalition invaded Iraq. The Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed leading to the fall of the Ba’athist government led by Saddam Hussein. The coalition would remain in Iraq for the next 8 years, officially withdrawing from the country in 2011.

In October 2008 Chicago based punk rock giants Rise Against released their 5th studio album entitled “Appeal to Reason“. The theme for this week Song Lyric Sunday is Army / Soldier / War and I have chosen to highlight the track “Hero of War” from that release. The track was only released as a promo single but did receive significant play on alternative radio.

The song Rolling Stone describes as an “ambivalent aggro-folk track” views the conflict through the eyes of an Iraq War Veteran looking back at his experience. The band’s Tim McIlrath has said he wanted to write a song capturing how the war would be viewed historically. After meeting active soldiers and hearing their stories he wanted to highlight the reality of what was occurring on the ground in Iraq and how it differed from the story being told by the government and the media. McIlrath stated in an interview, “It was a way to document what’s going on, like other artists documented for their generations and for generations to come.”1

There have been varying opinions about the song and its lyrics ranging from treasonous to heroic but the overwhelming takeaway for me is that war is never as neatly packaged as we see it on the evening news. I am not a fool, there are times war is necessary. Look no further than Putin’s assault on Ukraine and the threat he poses to the entire world. We must be certain that when we engage in war it is for the right reasons and our actions do not cross lines for which we can never come back. Peace must be the preferred option whenever possible.

Hero of War Lyrics

He said "Son, have you seen the world?
Well, what would you say if I said that you could?
"Just carry this gun, you'll even get paid"
I said "That sounds pretty good"

Black leather boots
Spit-shined so bright
They cut off my hair but it looked alright
We marched and we sang
We all became friends
As we learned how to fight

A hero of war
Yeah, that's what I'll be
And when I come home
They'll be damn proud of me
I'll carry this flag
To the grave if I must
'Cause it's a flag that I love
And a flag that I trust

I kicked in the door
I yelled my commands
The children, they cried
But I got my man
We took him away
A bag over his face
From his family and his friends

They took off his clothes
They pissed in his hands
I told them to stop
But then I joined in
We beat him with guns
And batons not just once
But again and again

A hero of war
Yeah that's what I'll be
And when I come home
They'll be damn proud of me
I'll carry this flag
To the grave if I must
'Cause it's a flag that I love
And a flag that I trust

She walked through bullets and haze
I asked her to stop
I begged her to stay
But she pressed on
So I lifted my gun
And I fired away

And the shells jumped through the smoke
And into the sand
That the blood now had soaked
She collapsed with a flag in her hand
A flag white as snow

A hero of war
Is that what they see
Just medals and scars
So damn proud of me
And I brought home that flag
Now it gathers dust
But it's a flag that I love
It's the only flag I trust

He said, "Son, have you seen the world?
Well what would you say, if I said that you could?"

Songwriters: Joseph Daniel Principe / Daniel Joseph / Timothy J. McIlrath / Brandon M. Barnes / Zachariah Joaquin Blair

Contains prompt from
Jim Adam’s Song Lyric Sunday.
Date: 2022-04-09 | Theme: Army / Soldier / War

Sources: 1. Excerpt from last.fm wiki for “Hero of War
Photo Credit: Unknown / Album Art: discogs.com
Copyright 2022 Greg Glazebrook, All Rights Reserved.

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