I always try to make it to the cenotaph at Victoria Park for Remembrance Day in London with a warm beverage, my poppy, and a head full of images of my grandfather, Samuel Burke or ‘Zaidy’ as I called him.
My grandfather secretly enlisted underage to become a transportation sergeant stationed in England. He served in the driving pool and supply, driving officers around and moving dry goods to different locations. He didn’t enlist to be part of a combat mission on the front lines , but their were several times where he had no choice. His brothers, my great Uncle Sol and Uncle Ben were in the Air Force, and great Uncle Dave was in the Navy.
The views at Victoria Park always get me a little teary-eyed but for the most part, I always leave so proud with some new friends.
Last year, what an experience I had… I found myself standing beside Cpl. Scriver, who’s been on the show before (left) and he introduced me to Randy (right).
Randy was elated to receive some Thank You cards from young students at the ceremony:
Within a few minutes, I had then met two other new friends, Jack Collins + Ken Parker.
These two got telling me SO many stories from their time serving for our country we had to move things to somewhere that served beer. They invited me to Mess Hall at the former site of CFB London (Wolseley Barracks).
I got a tour of the grounds with some insight on where the government is investing, and what is getting torn down. Then, as Ken stepped into Beaver Hall for the first time since 1987, the stories continued. I told them about my grandfather and how our name changed during the war from Burkowitz to Burke. What a fabulous day meeting some great people who have served for our great country. I look forward to wandering down to the Cenotaph on Rememberance Day every year when it falls during the week (not everyone is blessed to have some time to themselves around 11am). I NEVER leave lonely although I arrive alone. Thank you to those that have served in the past, and those serving now.
So many FM96 songs tell a story about war or a soldier. That’s why today’s 5 at 5 theme looks at the lyrics and stories behind some of them. Feel free to make a request from the songs noted below, or come up with one of your own. Have a look:
Alice in Chains – Rooster
Alice in Chains guitarist/co-vocalist Jerry Cantrell needed to look no further than his own father for inspiration for the band’s hit song ‘Rooster.’ The title came from the nickname given to his father while he was serving in the Vietnam War.
Cantrell stated in the ‘Music Box’ liner notes that doing the song brought he and his father closer together. He recalled, “The first time I ever heard him talk about [Vietnam] was when we made the video and he did a 45-minute interview with [director] Mark Pellington and I was amazed he did it … It even brought him to the point of tears. It was beautiful. He said it was a weird experience, a sad experience and he hoped that nobody else had to go through it.”
Metallica – One
From Ultimate Classic Rock:
James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich wrote ‘One’ based on Dalton Trumbo’s 1939 book, ‘Johnny Got His Gun.’ The song tells the story of a World War I soldier who has lost his eyes, ears, mouth and limbs. However, his mind remains intact, leaving him a prisoner in what remains of his body. Hetfield growls the thoughts of this wounded veteran, while the song’s furious finale conveys his anger and desperation as he prays for death. The opening sounds of helicopters and artillery drive home the point quickly and the machine gun-like guitar and drum parts also sell the story. For the video, the band included scenes and dialogue from the 1971 adaptation of the novel.
Metallica – For Whom the Bell Tolls
Few modern rock songs have portrayed the brutal realities soldiers experience in war as effectively as Metallica‘s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ from the thrash metal bible ‘Ride the Lightning.’
The song was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name, which portrayed the human cost underlying the Spanish Civil War and the dark undercurrent of all armed conflict.
Metallica’s take on the subject is as brutal lyrically as well as musically, portraying the soldiers as men caught up in something bigger than they can comprehend or control: “On they fight, for they’re right / Yes, but who’s to say / For a hill men would kill / Why, they do not know.”
Black Sabbath – War Pigs
CCR – Fortunate Son
Guns N’ Roses – Civil War
Guns N’ Roses asked the musical question, “What’s so civil about war, anyway?” with this landmark track, which showed the group moving in a more mature direction thematically.
‘Civil War’ references the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and JFK, making a historical parallel between wars fought throughout human history.
The lyrics lament the soldiers whose lives have been expended in the pursuit of financial, religious and political agendas, saying of war, “It feeds the rich while it buries the poor / Your power hungry selling soldiers in a human grocery store.”
Disturbed – Indestructible
Disturbed‘s powerful and anthemic sounds had become a favorite amongst military personnel over the years and in 2008 the band decided to pen a track that paid tribute to members of the military with the anthemic ‘Indestructible,’ the title track from Disturbed’s album of the same name.
Frontman David Draiman stated in a Rolling Stone interview, “[It’s] an anthem for soldiers. It’s meant to be something that would make them feel invincible, take way their fear and make them strong.” The song’s video shows a progression of war through the ages, with warriors from all eras donning weaponry and charging into battle.
The Doors – Unknown Soldier
From Ultimate Classic Rock:
The Doors voiced their not-so-veiled opposition to the Vietnam War with ‘Unknown Soldier,’ the first single from 1968’s ‘Waiting for the Sun.’
It’s a trademark Doors track marked by Ray Manzarek‘s signature organ riffing, topped off with an ironic Jim Morrison musing on how children were watching the war at home on TV as their fathers were getting killed: “Breakfast where the news is read / Television children fed / Unborn living, living, dead / Bullet strikes the helmet’s head / And it’s all over for the unknown soldier.”
Morrison directed a promotional clip that featured him getting killed, which the band then re-staged live at their concerts for the song’s finale.
Rise Against – Hero of War
Frontman, Tim McIlrath says the song was inspired by a documentary from 2006, The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends which looks at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after war.
The Trews – Highway of Heroes
The song Highway of Heroes was written by The Trews and Gordie Johnson.These good Canadian boys have summed up the highway – a stretch of Hwy. 401 between Trenton and Toronto – on which a convoy of hearses and limousines ferry Canada’s fallen in Afghanistan, along with their grieving families.Although the anthem was inspired by the death of Capt. Nichola Goddard from The Trews’ hometown of Antigonish, N.S., the description of the sad and sombre last journey for a fallen soldier is tragically timely with the deaths of Barrie-raised Pte. Kevin McKay and Oakville native Col. Geoff Parker.“This past fall, Colin (MacDonald) and I were reminded of Nichola’s story via our mother, who had taught her at school,” Trews guitarist/vocalist John-Angus MacDonald said in a press release about the single. “While writing the song we decided to zoom out from the specific details of Nichola’s story and make it more general, dedicating it to all soldiers past, present and future who are carried home on the Highway of Heroes.
“Afterward, we further felt compelled to do something with it that might benefit those who serve and those they leave behind. The Canadian Hero Fund was the most natural place to direct the proceeds.”
The song can be purchased online via an iTunes account for $1.29 with all net proceeds going to the Hero Fund.
Michael Ball, executive director of the Hero Fund, said the song already has struck a chord.
“It was played on a radio station in Barrie on Saturday night, just before Sunday’s repatriation,” Ball said, adding it had almost 10,000 views on YouTube over the weekend. “It made us realize this song has obviously already touched a lot of people.”