Interviews

Justin Moore Shares Veterans Day Reflections on 'The Ones That Didn't Make it Back Home'

Justin Moore's 2019 album Late Nights and Longnecks (Valory Music Co./ Big Machine Label Group) includes one of country music's most moving tributes to the military in recent memory, "The Ones That Didn't Make It Back Home."

Moore co-wrote one of his best songs to date with album co-producer Jeremy Stover and songwriters Paul DiGiovanni and Richard Chase McGill. Its music video, directed by former EMT Cody Villalobos, pays tribute to the loved ones torn apart by the dangers faced in the line of duty by soldiers, police officers, firefighters and first responders in scenarios ranging from overseas combat to school shootings.

Moore chatted with Wide Open Country in 2019 about how his latest album's lead single reflects his appreciation of family and freedom on Veterans Day.

"Growing up, it was instilled in me the importance of honoring the men and women who serve," says Moore, the grandson of two military veterans. "That's something that's certainly been part of my career with different events that we've done and different songs we've recorded and charity stuff we've been apart of over the years. It's something I'm looking forward to impressing on my own children."

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Patriotism within country music dates back to the days of Bob Wills' "Smoke on the Water" and took center-stage in more recent times through the songs of Johnny Cash ("Ragged Old Flag"), Toby Keith ("American Soldier"), Chely Wright ("Bumper of My SUV") and other Nashville stars. Inspiration for Moore to join this rich lineage has more to do with respecting soldiers' sacrifices than mirroring his favorite performers.

"You're kind of taken aback meeting these men and women, whether it be in a meet-and-greet or whether it be playing a base or whatever the case may be," Moore says. "It's amazing that they immediately come up and thank you. I'm sure I'm not the only artist who's experienced that. I don't deserve any 'thank you' at all. I get to go play music for a living and do what I love and know that my family's as safe as can be because of what you guys do.

"They always thank you because whether they're in Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever they may be in hostile environments, they're like 'this song or this album got me through'," he adds. "To me, it's always fun to have hit records and go play shows, but when you hear that kind of stuff, it speaks to the power of music and art as a whole. We all know this, but we need to be reminded at times of how powerful our words and what we do as entertainers can be to people."

Moore's country hits include 2011's "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" and 2019's "Why We Drink."

This story originally ran on Nov. 7, 2019.

"The Ones That Didn't Make It Back Home" Lyrics

Tour was up, middle of June
She was planning a welcome home barbeque
Green bean casserole, Grandma's recipe
There was a knock on the door 'round two o'clock
Two uniforms and her heart stopped
Yellow ribbon 'round an oak tree
Blowin' in the breeze

Here's to the ones that didn't make it back home
The ones we ain't seen in so long
The hold up a beer ones, the wish they were here ones
The not forgotten but gone
They're in a better place up there
But they sure left a hole down here
We just go on livin' and go on missin' the ones
The ones that didn't make it back home

The whole town shut down, the whole town showed up
Sang Amazing Grace, watched a slideshow of
His 22 years
There was laughs and there was tears
And that preacher talked about sacrifice
And traffic stopped for them Cadillac lights
Johnny sold beer half price that night
And everybody raised 'em high, singin'

Here's to the ones that didn't make it back home
The ones we ain't seen in so long
The hold up a beer ones, the wish they were here ones
The not forgotten but gone
They're in a better place up there
But they sure left a hole down here
We just go on livin' and go on missin' the ones
The ones that didn't make it back home

Back to that front porch
Back through that front door
To the life they were fightin' for

Here's to the ones that didn't make it back home
The ones we ain't seen in so long
The hold up a beer ones, the wish they were here ones
The not forgotten but gone
They're in a better place up there
But they sure left a hole down here
We just go on livin' and go on missin' the ones
The ones that didn't make it back home

The ones that didn't make it back home

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Justin Moore Shares Veterans Day Reflections on 'The Ones That Didn't Make it Back Home'