Country music artists have a way of telling beautiful stories unlike the stars of any other genre -- and some of country's most touching songs are those penned about soldiers and the sacrifices they make in honor of our country.
Everyone from Tim McGraw to Carrie Underwood has a spot on The Boot's Top 10 Country Songs About Soldiers list. Some of these songs have real-life inspiration; others, although fictional, are reality for so many families of the United States' servicemen and -women.
Which other country artists earn a spot on this list? Read on for the entire list.
Kris Kristofferson, a veteran himself, introduces Big & Rich's "8th of November" music video. The country music legend explains that the tune is the true story of Army medic Lawrence Joel, the first living black man to receive the Medal of Honor since 1898, and of one of the many men he saved: Niles Harris, "the man who gave Big Kenny his tophat," a member of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade during Operation Hump in South Vietnam on (naturally) Nov. 8, 1965.
"8th of November" is a perfect melding of patriotic pride and country music's classic storytelling lyrics: "On the 8th of November / The angels were crying / As they carried his brothers away / With the fire raining down / And the hell all around / There were few men left standing that day ..."
In 2001, Ball released "Riding With Private Malone," which tells the story of a man who purchases a car and discovers a note in its glovebox, explaining that the vehicle once belonged to a solider who didn't make it home.
"My name is Private Andrew Malone / And if you're readin' this, then I didn't make it home / But for every dream that's shattered / Another one comes true," explains the song. "This car was once a dream of mine / Now it belongs to you / Though you may take her and make her your own / You'll always be riding with Private Malone."
"Riding With Private Malone" gets extra emotional when Ball talks about a car crash that should have cost him his life; instead, however, a witness says they saw a solider dragging the song's narrator away from the wreck.
Isbell's "Dress Blues" was inspired by a high school acquaintance, Marine Cpl. Matthew D. Conley, who was killed in the line of duty. The song is a wrenching, plainspoken remembrance of war's casualties. In mainstream country music, Zac Brown Band popularized the song by covering it on their 2015 album Jekyll + Hyde.
"Some Gave All," which became the title track of Cyrus' freshman album, was written by the singer and his first wife, Cindy Smith Cyrus. Before penning the song, the Cyruses spoke with a Vietnam War vet.
"All gave some, some gave all / Some stood through for the red, white and blue / And some had to fall," Cyrus sings. "And if you ever think of me / Think of all your liberties and recall / Some gave all."
In 2011, Cyrus re-recorded "Some Gave All" for that year's I'm American album. The new version features guest vocals from Craig Morgan, Jamey Johnson and Darryl Worley.
McGraw co-wrote “If You’re Reading This” with Brad and Brett Warren, after reading a magazine article about the numerous casualties of war. The powerful song, written from the perspective of a soldier who leaves his loved ones a letter in case he doesn't make it home, debuted at the 2007 ACM Awards, with families of soldiers sharing the stage with McGraw. While the song was never intended as a single, numerous radio stations started airing the live performance, and a remixed live version went to No. 3 on the country charts.
With "I Drive Your Truck," Brice shares an emotional tale of how people often deal with the loss of a close friend or a loved one. Although grief can be unbearable, sometimes it's made easier by putting yourself in a familiar situation from the past and conjuring up the best possible memories. Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Jimmy Yeary co-wrote the song after Harrington heard the story of Paul Monti: His son, Medal of Honor recipient Jared Monti, was killed in Afghanistan. The elder Monti drives his son's truck to help him feel closer to him.
In "Just a Dream," Underwood is living out the harsh reality of a woman left to mourn her partner after he died in war. Throughout the heart-wrenching song, Underwood tries to come to grips with knowing she will never see her love again: "Baby, why'd you leave me? / Why'd you have to go? / I was counting on forever, now I'll never know ..."
Adkins' "Arlington" comes from the point of view of a soldier buried at Arlington National Cemetery: "And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property / I'm on sacred ground, and I'm in the best of company / I'm thankful for those thankful for those things I've done / I can rest in peace / I'm one of the chosen ones/ I made it to Arlington," Adkins sings. "Arlington" peaked at No. 16 on the charts.
"American Solider," which was the second single from Keith's Shock'n Y'all, was Keith's 13th No. 1 song -- but it's a particularly special one. Explains Keith: "It's written for all the times that I get to meet the troops on these USO tours ... [T]he POWs and the families and stuff that have come and brought me back my old CD covers and stuff that they had and shown how much support they had, and this is my support for the American fighting men and women."
Bruce Robison wrote and originally recorded this song, but the Dixie Chicks' stripped-down cover of "Travelin' Soldier" is the one that became a single. The tragic tale of a high school girl who falls for a soldier in the Vietnam War, with tragic results, the song highlights the trio's understated vocal harmonies and hearkens to their early days as a bluegrass band. "Travelin' Soldier," which appeared on 2002's Home, is the Dixie Chicks' final No. 1 song to date.