With the release of Kid Rock’s terrific pro-freedom and pro-American anthem “Born Free,” and the latest installment of John Ondrasik’s “For the Troops” compilation, I got to thinking about songs that go against the so-called liberal grain of pop culture and espouse either a pro-military, pro-American, or just pro-liberty theme.
Some are overtly topical to the political or cultural situation in their time or even battle cries. Others are merely personal anthems that project an American sense of independence, self-reliance or willingness to fight for what is right. They are alike in their timeless appeal.
Here are my Top 10, with a few runners-up thrown in.
10. Ballad of the Green Berets, Sgt. Barry Sadler
The theme song for John Wayne’s critically reviled pro-Vietnam War movie was a big hit in its time. It seems clunky and corny, but doggone it, listen to it and try not humming it several times throughout the day. People tend to remember the opening lines, but the finish really resonates:
Back at home a young wife waits
Her Green Beret has met his fate
He has died for those oppressed
Leaving her his last request
Put silver wings on my son’s chest
Make him one of America’s best
He’ll be a man they’ll test one day
Have him win the Green Beret
The song was written by Robin Moore, who wrote the non-fiction book The Green Berets, which Wayne used as the basis for his fictional story, and Barry Sadler, a medic wounded in Vietnam who performed the song. It was written in honor of James Gabriel Jr., a Green Beret executed by the VC after being captured on a “training mission.”
Sadler, led a colorful life, to say the least. In the late 70s, he shot and killed country singer Lee Emerson, but only served 30 days for “voluntary manslaughter.” He died in 1989 after being shot in the head in Guatemala City. The cause is still mysterious, rumors run from suicide to assassination for his support and help of the Contras.