Music is mankind’s constant. I’ve met people who don’t read books, go to the movies, surf the internet, or watch television. I’ve not yet met anyone who doesn’t listen to music. It’s a universal friend, one that’s a true companion in all of our endeavors. War is no different. Music and warfare has always been intertwined.
I have a theory that every person that went forward had one song, one song that absolutely defined their entire OIF/OEF experience. When it plays, it’s the song that transports that person back to a moment which may have been years in the past but to him/her, it’s a moment with perfect clarity and immediacy. For me, that song is ‘Holy’ by Mariachi El Bronx.
It was 2010 and I was an Afghan Border Police mentor coming back from Heyratan, a border crossing point on the Afghan/Uzbekistan border. We were traveling back to Mazer E-Sharif in a convoy of four MATVs, a boring three-hour drive through a barren sand and windblown landscape resembling southern Arizona. I was not normally a fan of music on convoys, needing to be alert and all, but Balkh Province was a relatively safe place.
So there we were, going south on the highway with visibility absolute crap from the blowing sand and ‘Holy’ comes on. A quarter of the way through the song, we passed through the sandstorm and crested a rise just northeast of the city. The sky was vivid blue and you could see the mountains in the distance, Mazer E-Sharif on the right and Kholm to the left. I saw wild horses galloping on the slopes of the mountains away from a pair of UH-60s heading west which spooked them.
And then it happened, like a lens flipped over the camera, the song lined up with what I saw. For the next four minutes, everything was in time to the music — my vehicle, the horses, the people, the helicopters — all of it combined into this powerful Spaghetti-western cinematic moment which I’d never experienced before.
My war is in the past, probably for good — but a part of me will always be on that road heading south and that’s alright by me, too. If my supposition is correct — everyone deployed had a moment like the one I experienced.
What is your war song?