Tyler Prewitt was the kind of kid everyone loved. I didn’t go to school with him – I went to church with him. He and his best friend Jeremy were always into something, whether it was playing a prank or trying to do something nice for someone covertly. He, like my brother, joined the Army right after 9/11 out of a desire to fight for our country. I didn’t hear about it until after he’d left. I knew his older brothers and I didn’t think this was something Tyler was likely to do.
I was even more stunned when, in September of 2004, I got the message that he’d been killed in Iraq. He was his unit’s medic. His humvee had been hit by an IED; he calmly directed his fellow soldiers on how to care for his badly mangled leg and was airlifted out in good condition. During transport a piece of debris from the wound formed an embolism (it lodged in multiple blood vessels in his lungs), choking off the oxygenated blood supply to his brain. By the time he arrived in Landstuhl, Germany, he was braindead. His mother and one of his brothers were able to get to his side before he passed. In death, Tyler was able to continue saving lives – his organs were donated at his previous request.
Just eight months later I was living with a police officer and got up early on my day off to attend Memorial Day services at the National Memorial Cemetery where Tyler had been laid to rest. My roommate asked why I was up so early. I figured she knew; I gave her a quizzical look and said, “it’s Memorial Day. I’m going to military services.” I was stunned when she told me she had no idea what Memorial Day was about…so much so that I couldn’t avoid offending her with my jaw-drop and comment: “how the hell could you not know what today is about?”
She’s not the only one. Sadly, I’m afraid that at least half of the kids in today’s public schools are completely unaware why we have tomorrow off of work and school. As we move forward more and more people forget that we are remembering the men and women who paid for our freedom with their very lives. I’ve noticed something in our culture, though; every single offering of the Country Music Industry, live shows like the CMA’s, there is always a very respectful tribute to the troops.
I can’t remember the last time the Grammy Awards held a tribute to our troops, whether past or present.
That’s very telling about our culture. Self-sacrifice is not a natural thing. We are hardwired to fight to live, no matter how badly wounded or sick we become. The reason why the sacrifice of so many for the cause of freedom is so foreign is because the vast majority can’t comprehend being willing to die for others. If you compare the respect of those in the Academy of Country Music to mainstream pop, rap, or Hollywood names, you’ll find plenty of differences that go well beyond the music or the fashion. The biggest can be seen in how they treat our fallen heroes. Hollywood barely knows how to pay tribute. Modern pop, rap and rock are too busy being liberal blowhards to consider paying tribute. You’re hard-pressed, though, to find a single country music show that doesn’t include a well-thought tribute and profound respect among the fans.
You will never see this on the Grammys:
Metal pays tribute, too – Disturbed has done incredible work with the USO. Think the MTV VMA’s will use some of the damn good music they’ve written for the troops for a tribute?
Nah. It’d mess up their “war is evil” narrative.
It’s up to us to shape the culture. If we are the culture, then we can change the way things are done. I personally refuse to support any artist who has taken part in anti-war protests or has become too politically active because of the current wars. You won’t find a single album by Springsteen, Bon Jovi, or any rap artists in my collection (and my collection of music is pretty extensive). I also love movies, but you won’t see anything with George Clooney or Sean Penn on my shelf. If an artist, actor or director has disrespected our fallen heroes, I won’t buy their product. We don’t need a massive boycott – just a personal commitment to our troops that we have more respect for them than we do for our own entertainment.
It’s unfortunate that I have to admit my friendship with Tyler had drifted off shortly before he left for the military. I think of the friends and family currently serving every day and hope and pray as hard as I can that I see them again. For those I’ve lost and those who went before them, I thank God that they had the courage to do what so many couldn’t. I also keep my rifle skills fresh so that if I am allowed to one day serve my country, I can ensure that a few more will come home safely.