by Sean Smith
This past Tuesday Americans observed Veteran’s Day. In big cities and small towns all across the country we held parades and ceremonies to display our public support and show our thanks for our nation’s veterans. And while it is important to remember those Americans who have served in the military, especially those who have served in a war environment, it is also important that we as civilians remember that too many veterans of our nation’s wars struggle with issues directly associated with their time of service.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 20 percent of veterans who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The VA also estimates that we lose 22 veterans each day due to suicide. This is a truly sobering statistic that we as a public should pay more attention to.
Considering the fact that only one percent of Americans serve in the military, it is hard for us as the general public to completely understand what veterans experience and why one in five returning veterans are struggling with PTSD. Sure, on a theoretical level we have a basic understanding of what our servicemen and women experience while fighting in war. We have an idea of the stress and violence that they experience. But unless we ourselves have ever actively took part, in one way or another, in the killing of another human being or witnessed someone close to us fall victim to that same fate, we simply cannot understand what veteran’s of war went through. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to. Which is why for this week’s edition of #tbt here on Clizbeats we take a look back at a song that gives us somewhat of an insight into the struggle that some veterans face through the song “Hero of War” by Rise Against.
The punk rock band Rise Against released “Hero of War” on their 2008 album Appeal to Reason. The song was never officially released as a single, but the band did release a rather moving music video for it. The song’s lyrics tell a story of a soldier who enlists in the military, goes off to war, and then later struggles with the experiences from his time at war. The level of detail in the storytelling along with the simple acoustic delivery, make this song a powerful and emotional tale of one fictional soldier’s view on being a veteran.
It is important to note that all veterans react to their experiences in their own unique way. Some veterans have no issues with their experience during war while others are so affected and traumatized by their experiences that they see no other way to deal with it then to take the tragic step of ending their own life. While the sentiments expressed by Rise Against in “Hero of War” may not be shared by all veterans, or even most, it does represent the feelings of many veterans who struggle to come to terms with their war experience. And for that reason it is worthy of remembering and giving it a listen.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I myself am an Iraq War veteran. I served two tours of duty in Balad, Iraq between 2004 and 2006. And while I never personally pulled the trigger that killed another person, as is depicted in the song “Hero of War”, I do struggle with the implicit role that I played in the killing of both enemy combatants and innocent civilians during my time serving in Iraq. It is a heavy burden that I carry with me to this very day. So when you listen to this song I hope that you don’t brush it off as some sort of anti-war propaganda, but rather as a song that I, along with many other of my fellow veterans, can relate to as a real representation of the inner struggle that many of my fellow veterans and I continue to deal with on a daily basis.
“Hero Of War”
From Appeal to Reason