"Hero of War" as written by Zach Blair, Joseph Principe, Timothy Mcilrath and Brandon Barnes....
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
The only flag that I trust

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


Lyrics submitted by Yoshü, edited by LasseSand

"Hero of War" as written by Joseph Principe Brandon Barnes

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Hero of War song meanings
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  • +20
    General CommentI haven't made up my mind as to whether I love or hate this song. As a soldier in the United States Army, I have mixed feelings.

    Members of the armed forces have joined on a volunteer basis. Obviously, they each have their own individual reasons, but I'm sure each and every one has a sense of pride for their country and the belief that they are doing something noble by enlisting.

    However, I believe this song perfectly exemplifies how easy it is to change from a hero to a criminal. We are in the field, where absolutely nothing is certain. I believe being in the armed forced is quite possibly one of the most difficult jobs, because you never know what is coming the next second. Driving in a convoy, the car ahead with bystanders next to it could be people waving and thanking you, or waiting with a bomb in the trunk.

    The first situation with the prisoner shows how a hero can become a criminal. There are rules of war, and when violated, you are most certainly in the wrong. This chorus angered me, because I know there are ignorant people in this country who will read it and immediately stereotype every soldier. Yes, this has happened, and it is an ugly scar the army must live with, but it does not mean the rest of the soldiers must sacrifice their innocence, heroism, and pride because of it.

    As for the second situation with the woman being shot, I feel this shows by so many soldiers return from tours of duty needing counseling. The woman was running towards him ignoring commands, what else is he to do? She could have had a bomb strapped to her chest. In war, it is split second decisions. Him or her. He has a job to do. She ignored his command. He immediately becomes worried and scared for his own life.
    Only after does he realize the error in that the woman was not an enemy, but someone wanting peace. Certainly a mistake...but a mistake MUCH harder to avoid than the first.

    God Bless.
    bradley906on October 07, 2008   Link
  • +8
    Song MeaningI'll give you my take on the song, as a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.
    I served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Pararescueman for the 320th STS.

    Disclaimer: I don't speak for all service members, but for those of us who have come across these scenarios... I think this is as accurate as I can be.


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

    - Speaking with the recruiter, excited about the opportunity to serve your country and get paid (even though it's very little) in the process.


    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

    - The pride you feel when you enlist. At first, it's all hard work and excitement. The brotherhood, getting through tough ordeals with a group of people who you have to learn to trust with your life, literally. For a minimum of four years, these people are your new family.


    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
    Because it's a flag that I love
    And a flag that I trust

    - I think "hero of war" is a bit skewed, that's not the majority's perspective but the line fits the song well (still consumed by pride at wearing the uniform). Again, we're standing 10-feet tall carrying this flag, wearing this uniform, protecting our families back home... pretty basic thought process.


    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

    - When you finally deploy and land in a hostile AO (Area of Operations), things get very serious... we've been constantly spoon-fed stories of overseas tours and soldiers are so anxious to finally DO the jobs they've spent 1-2 years training for and building up to. We're taught that these men we capture have no face -- no family -- no life. They're just terrorists that need to be brought in and questioned. At this point, we still feel like we're "fighting the good fight".


    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

    - This part is hard to explain to someone who's never been in this position. It's easy to criticize and monday-morning-quarterback what you hear about on T.V. with soldiers beating prisoners and such. You spend so much time being shot at, in constant fear of your life, and watching your friends get injured/killed that it all becomes VERY, VERY personal. You start believing every person you apprehend is part of some evil organization out to kill you, it's just a lot of mental strain... not sure how else to put it. NOT EVERYONE DOES THIS, but I know how angry I was and how rough I handled a few prisoners (more like rude behavior to someone in handcuffs -- pushing them when you guide their direction, grabbing their collar to stand them up, etc. not literal "drawing blood" violence).


    - The Chorus rolls through again, re-iterating the pride you feel at keeping your country safe.


    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

    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

    - I'll explain this through a personal experience. When you guard a checkpoint that searches cars, or you're assaulting a city to liberate it from extremists who are abducting the townspeople's men/children to become soldiers, etc.. there's a figurative line in the sand you draw. If a person or a car is lined with explosives, for our own safety we have a "blast zone radius". We warn them to stay back, our translator uses a megaphone to call out in their native tongue to stop. If they don't, we raise our weapons and tell them to stop AGAIN. Unfortunately, if they don't listen... we can't allow them to walk up to us and blow up our entire unit. We're not supposed to fire "warning shots", but we do... because hell, no one WANTS to shoot someone. In my situation, a woman approached our checkpoint in a white robe with her arms crossed keeping it closed. We followed the above procedures, until she started actually RUNNING at us. We had no choice but to fire, and when the bomb squad arrived... her robe was filled with half-spoiled fruit she was trying to sell us to make ends meet. We had no way of knowing, and it was just a tragic situation for everyone. Our only other choice was to let her walk right up to us, and risk all being blown to pieces. It's a bad situation in those countries... they use children, women, and old people to blow us up because we don't usually suspect them as quickly.


    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

    - At this point, the pride is still there somewhat... but the bitterness and the terrible autrocities of war have broken most of our spirits. We don't want to fight anymore, we just want to go home... and when we GET home, we have to deal with all the memories, like the girl, for the rest of our lives. We constantly battle with PTSD. Most of us spend the rest of our lives regretting the deaths of friends, loved ones, or strangers -- and trying to find a justfication somewhere that we were protecting our country. To not lose our minds, we have to cling to the flag and remember that all of this happened for "a good reason", but we don't know anymore if that's even true. It's a bad back and forth situation, and the Veteran's Affairs (VA) office doesn't know how to help PTSD soldiers very well. How can you remove that kind of scar from people's memories??


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

    - The very last bit... is the next guy walking into the recruiter's office to start the cycle over again.



    TL:DR
    It's a song about a soldier's patriotic views eventually running into a brick wall of morals and ethics, where you do things for your country that sometimes you can't live with once you get home.

    It's a beautiful, ACCURATE song... and as much as the song makes me swell up with pride an sadness everytime I hear it -- I appreciate Rise Against compiling such a song that really understands soldier's perspectives.

    Thank you for reading guys, hope this helped.
    -Brent
    locke107on October 07, 2013   Link
  • +7
    General CommentThe song is amazing. It is also clearly not criticizing soldiers.

    It is a display of human nature. The example of pissing in the prisoners hands is obviously referencing Abu Ghraib and it even notes that he first tried to tell them to stop before joining in. If anything its sympathizing with the people involved in that horrific incident, explaining that even if the soldier knew what he was doing was wrong, peer pressure pulled him in. The hate that is fed to them pulled them in. They're products of their environment.

    The shooting of the female is the same way. I'd shoot her too, no one is about to wait to find out if she has a bomb strapped to her or not. Hindsight is 20/20, though, so when she falls and it becomes clear that she only wanted peace, that can do nothing but put a heavy strain on the feelings of the solider involved. It's hard to feel good about what you're doing when you're forced into these situations.

    But it's not saying they're wrong - it's saying that war is ugly. The soldier, if anything, is being praised for having to go through with it to protect the rights of humans around the world.
    Karrmeron October 08, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI really didn't like this song at first but then I actually listened to the lyrics and now I love it. It's basically a big fuck you to war and how it's not nearly as glorified as people seem to think.
    ihatehatehaterson October 02, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is actually amazing if you listen to it a couple of times and really pay attention to the lyrics. Tim basically lets everyone know his, and most likely, the band's stance on the war. He's saying that soldiers aren't nearly as glorified as the media makes them up to be.

    I believe he also mixes in that the people were fighting have as much, if not more, pride in their country and our willing to take their flag to their grave as well. Awesome song.
    KyleKorver69on October 02, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General CommentPersonally, I think this song is NOT criticizing soldiers. Yes bad things happen in war, and people do the wrong thing sometimes, but I think that is exactly Rise Against's point. War is a cruel and horrible thing that makes people do things that they would never even think of doing. The prisoner, the woman being shot, they are both things that a VERY LARGE majority of soldiers would never do. Yet in times of war, they do it. Rise Against wants people to see that, they want everyone to know what war can do to a person.
    golfrguy4on October 08, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI haven't heard this song, but after reading the lyrics, I have to say that I enjoyed how they bring up shooting at the lady who's carrying a flag herself. Although the flag was white... which means surrender, I still think it's interesting how he praises his flag so much, just as much as the people he's shooting at praise their flag. The main difference here is that he has a rifle. The main comparison here is that they both share a loyalty to their flag that they trust so much... even though she winds up dead.
    docpookion October 08, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentKarrmer is right on. He isnt hating on soldiers, but more on war itself.
    brooks450on October 08, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI dont believe that they are trying to generalize soldiers but just war itself and what it does to people. My question is at the end of the song, he talks about the flag that he brought home gathering dust, which flag is he talking about. At first I thought it was just the American flag but the more I listen to it the more I think it could be the white flag that the woman was carrying. I was just wondering what other people thought of that.
    lankson October 09, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThrosby, please don't just assume that the song only refers to the views of "American citizens".

    There are many, many, many nations that have previously or currently taking their part in conflict, and many of these have the same ironic "heroic" views on war and those actions taken during war.

    Rise Against may be an American band, but do not assume their words are to be taken only in reference to American views. The lyrics do not at all finger a particular nation, but instead can be interpreted to undertake ALL those nations that have been involved in war. I'm sure RA are interpreting the entire world's views, not just one nation. This is why this song is so accessible. An Anglo-American may listen to these lyrics and take heart, just as much as a Muslim in Iraq may do.

    To only assume "American" is quite naive.
    therealliamon October 07, 2008   Link

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