GAC's Top 20 Patriotic Country Songs

By David Scarlett

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Trace Adkins photo courtesy of Capitol Nashville

"Arlington" (2005) written by Jeremy Spillman and Dave Turnbull and recorded by Trace Adkins

This is a hugely powerful song in the voice of a fallen soldier being returned to his parents and to his final resting place, Arlington National Cemetery, a place he had visited as a child with his father to see his grandfather's grave.

The song was hugely popular and was steadily combing the charts when Trace got word that some military families had some issues with it. So, without a moment's hesitation, Trace had his record label stop promoting the song because—in spite of the many people who loved the tune—the last thing he wanted to do was cause a military family any discomfort.

"Ragged Old Flag" (1974) written and performed by Johnny Cash

This is simply a beautifully eloquent tribute to the ideals that are America and the flag that represents them. Johnny carefully crafted the lyrics in such a way that a ragged flag on a courthouse square is battered, torn and scarred from the battles she's been in, but still flying high. And as an old man on a park bench details the flag's imperfections to a stranger, he re-discovers his own pride in America and sums it up like this: And she's getting thread bare, and she's wearing thin,
but she's in good shape, for the shape she's in. 'Cause she's been through the fire before and I believe she can take a whole lot more."

"They Also Serve" (2005) written by Jerry Holthouse and Tony Seibert and recorded by John Conlee

This song looks at the often-ignored side of a soldier's service to his or her country—the loved ones left behind to keep the home fires burning. Inspired by scenes of the soldiers shipping off to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, the song struck an especially poignant chord with John, whose own son was getting ready to join the conflict not long after the song was recorded. It's been hugely uplifting to family members who've heard the song and realize that the sacrifices they're making and the service they're providing by doing without their military loved ones are appreciated. And they absolutely should be.

"Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" (2002) written and recorded by Alan Jackson

While not a patriotic song in the traditional sense, this song, written by Alan shortly after the 9/11attacks, may in fact be the ultimate patriotic song. It addresses and validates all the emotions, thoughts and concerns that Americans felt after that horrific day. Whether he's asking, "Did you dust off that bible at home or go out and buy you a gun," Alan reveals how well he knows the rest of us by examining the effects on our national psyche the day so many were brutally taken from us. He ends each chorus as he ends the song, with the reminder that the greatest gift God gave us is love. It's nothing short of a masterpiece, and Alan brought honor to the entire country music industry through writing it and offering it to people who might otherwise never have listened to country music—people who needed healing.

"Have You Forgotten" (2003) written by Wynn Varble and Darryl Worley and recorded by Darryl Worley

It's hard to find a more passionate supporter of our military than Darryl. And after a USO tour of Afghanistan over the 2002 Christmas holidays, he knew he had to do something to fight for our service men and women the way he saw them fighting for us. So he and buddy Wynn Varble, who, like Darryl, thought a lot of Americans were settling back into a pre-war mindset, decided to write a song to remind all of us why we're fighting.

The first performances of the song were on the Grand Ole Opry stage. "At the first Friday night show, they started applauding in the middle of the song," recalls Darryl. "It startled me so much that I forgot a line. Every performance of it that weekend got ridiculous ovations. On the televised Grand Ole Opry show on Saturday night, people actually stood up at the beginning of the song and remained standing throughout the whole performance. They cheered and cheered and cheered. I'd never seen anything like it.

By Monday morning, the label was getting phone calls from all over the country. Everyone was trying to get the song. So we put together a meeting as quick as we could. We set up a recording date right then. And it's been like a whirlwind ever since." The song was a career record that wound up spending six weeks at No. 1.