6 Bittersweet Memorial Day Songs for Our Soldiers (VIDEOS)

Suzanne Murray

tomb of unknown soldierOn Memorial Day we honor the memory of soldiers who gave their lives for our country. But while these heroes are "soldiers" or "service people" to many, to others they are "Mom," "Dad," "Son," "Daughter," "Husband," "Wife." These aren't just faceless names on memorials and tombstones, these are men and women who were loved dearly by those they left behind. But sometimes they don't have the words it takes to explain the magnitude of their loss to the rest of us. And even if they could, we often don't have the words to empathize so we turn to quotes, poems, and songs.

Fortunately, there are people who can sing things much better than we could ever say them. So what better way to honor our soldiers on Memorial Day -- and help us understand what their families are going through -- than through song? Bittersweet music that helps us remember the heroes in our lives -- those known and unknown men and women who touched all of our lives.

Here are 6 songs -- from Carrie Underwood, New Order, Tim McGraw, Johnny Cash, Lee Greenwood, and the Dixie Chicks -- with lyrical quotes that really resonate on Memorial Day and will help us honor our loved ones.

A note of warning: You will need tissues.

1.  "If You're Reading This" by Tim McGraw. The song is the "reading" of a soldier's last letter to his mother and family.  

"If you're reading this, there is going to come a day you move on and find someone else and that's okay. Just remember this, I'm in a better place. Soldiers live in peace and angels sing amazing grace."



2. "I'm Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood. The title says it all, but the lyrical quote that really resonates on Memorial Day is:  

"And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free, and I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me."


3. New Order's eighties song "Love Vigilantes." My personal favorite, this song is about a soldier who gets his leave and thinks he's going home to see his wife and kids (but doesn't make it).

"I want to see my family. My wife and child waiting for me. I've got to go home, I've been so alone you see ... When I walk through the door my wife she's laying on the floor and with tears her eyes were sore, I did not know why. Then I looked into her hand and I saw the telegram. Said that I was a brave, brave man, but that I was dead."


4. "Just a Dream" by Carrie Underwood is a song about a young woman who tries to cope with the death of her soldier husband. While it's not based on any true event in Carrie's life -- it's a sad reality that too many widows of soldiers have lived.

"Baby, why'd you leave me, why'd you have to go? I was counting on forever, now I'll never know. I cant even breathe. It's like I'm, looking from a distance, standing in the background. Everybody's saying, he's not coming home now. This can't be happening to me. This is just a dream."


5. "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" by Johnny Cash is a song based on the true story of a Native American soldier who fought at Iwo Jima and helped raise the flag there. He survived the actual war, but it killed him later, as wars sometimes do. Ira Hayes is now buried at Arlington National Cemetary.

"Then Ira started drinkin' hard. Jail was often his home. They'd let him raise the flag and lower it like you'd throw a dog a bone. He died drunk one mornin' alone in the land he fought to save. Two inches of water in a lonely ditch was a grave for Ira Hayes."


6. Travelin' Soldier sung by the Dixie Chicks is about a shy American soldier who strikes up a conversation with a young woman and corresponds with her during the Vietnam War. His death goes unnoticed by everyone but her.

"One Friday night at a football game, the Lord's Prayer said and the Anthem sang. A man said folks would you bow your heads for a list of local Vietnam dead. Crying all alone under the stands was a piccolo player in the marching band. And one name read but nobody really cared. But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair."


Thank you to all the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice and thank you to the families and friends who have lost a loved one.


What songs resonate with you on days like today?


Image via absolute_madness73/Flickr

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