What does Hero Of War mean?

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Rise Against: Hero Of War Meaning

Song Released: 2009

Hero Of War Lyrics

He said, “Son,
Have you seen the world?
Well, what would you say
If I said that you could?
Just carry this gun and you’ll even get paid.”
I said, “That sounds pretty good.”

Black leather boots
Spit-shined so bright
They cut off my hair...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Jun 14th 2009 report

    I'm in Iraq right now, and relate to this song, at first, when I heard it, I was angry, I thought he was bashing soldiers. I was livid......Then I read the lyrics, and listened.
    I take this as the singer taking the life of a civilian...would I say he was tricked? No, tricking is usually a lie, the recruiter didn't lie. But, I digress.
    He took him from a civilian, and showed his life to a soldier. The deployment, and knowing that when you come back, people will indeed hail you as a hero.
    However, it takes the worst part of our lives, and raises awareness, for what we do, the decisions we have to make, and the effect it has on our mental state. Sometimes temporary, sometimes, soldiers aren't so lucky. Either way, it shows we will never be the same after these traumatic events, and how the soldier views it as the Army trying to make up for his pain with medals and a pat on the back, which is how they used to do it.
    Awesome song, it will make me cry for a long time.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Nov 1st 2008 report

    Well, the meaning of this song isn't hard to understand yourself. But I'll post anyway.

    Find the lyrics at http://www.metrolyrics.com/hero-of-war-lyrics-rise-against.html

    Joe's father tells him that he should join the army/marine corps if he wants to see the world. He will even get paid. Joe thinks "Nice, anyway I wanted to get out of this shithole (some WT small city in the middle of nowhere)". So he joins. Everything is alright, he gets friends and it all seems nice.

    Joe is sent to Iraq (or Afghanistan). He is sure that when he comes home, he will do it as a "hero of war". Everyone will be proud of him. And if he doesn't get home, well, then he died for his country! And that ain't bad either! Because he loves the US, and he trust the US.

    One day Joe arrest a terrorist suspect. The mans children cry, and Joe doesn't like it to much, but whatever, he did it. In prison, Joe's comrades beat the prisoner and piss on him and so on. Joe tells them to stop, but then he joins them.

    After the incident, Joe tells himself that everything will be alright. He will return as a "hero of war". Everyone will be proud of him. He will still serve America, even if it leads to his death. Because the he trust the US. Joe seems to want tp convince himself that he is doing the right thing.

    One day, there's a firefight. A woman starts to run against Joe and his comrades. Joe screams at her, tries to tell her to stop. She doesn't stop. So he shoots her (she could be a suicide bomber). When she falls to the ground, he see's that she is holding a white flag.

    Joe comes home alive. And yes, everyone sees him as a "hero of war". A man who did his duty towards his country. Joe thinks it's all bullshit. He saved that white flag as a memory. He thinks that the US wars are all shit, he only follows the white flag now. But there seems to be no need for any white flags, no time for peace. So it just gathers dust.

    Well. Now I made it a story. The guy's name don't need to be Joe. And it could be another conflict, and the unit could be something else than the US army/marine corps. Some parts in the song is obvious, but some isn't. For example, I think, that in the second chorus, "Joe" has started to doubt the war, but tries to tell himself that he is doing the right thing. It's the feeling I get.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    May 17th 2010 report

    As a combat veteran from the U.S. Army, I can completely relate to this song. As for the first verse, it is the cliche recruiter slogan for the military (not just the U.S. Military). They entice you to join with half-truths and hopes of adventure. But by now, most people considering the military as a career choice should have realized that it's not all fun and games anymore.
    The second verse is all about the brotherhood you join and become a part of when you enter into the military.
    The third verse is all about national pride, whichever country the soldier might be from. We call it patriotism in America.
    The fourth and fifth verses are about following orders, hard choices, and not being able to resist mob mentality. The soldier clearly didn't want any part of the mistreatment of the prisoner, but he won't have to see the prisoner again like he will the soldiers he's bled beside for so long. It compels you to do what you didn't think you ever would and some people just can't resist to do the right thing. It's easy to say NO to someone you don't care about, its much more difficult to say NO to someone you love, someone you would give your life to save.
    As for the girl with the flag, no soldier is going to let anyone approach their position without knowing their intentions. Hindsight may be 20/20 when you have months and years to pick apart decisions made in split seconds in the field. Decisions that are life and death. That's why being a soldier is one of, if not the most, difficult job to do in the world. It's also why the suicide rate among soldiers, especially combat veterans is so high.
    The chorus is about what the soldier has really experienced but what the people at home will never see and probably never hear about. The terrible choices you have to make in a life or death situation. Justified or not, you live with those decisions for life.
    I don't see any soldier bashing in this song. I see a songwriter's keen understanding of the undercurrents of life as a soldier in a combat zone and life that comes after.

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 9th report

    In the Rise Against graphic novel I got a few months ago, it shows a kid's father getting angry for taking music as his path and sending him to boot camp to become a soldier. They did in fact cut his hair, as the lyrics say. At least from the graphic novel that's what I collected. I think this song really does mean that people think once it's over you're a hero of war. But you're left with memories, so awful some can't handle them. Hence the song hero of war, and hence the lyrics. This is of course just my opinion.

  5. anonymous
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    Jan 3rd 2018 report

    All along I was interpreting the third verse like the rest of you, having to shoot a woman holding a white flag on the battlefield but it just occurred to me..
    What if this verse is after returning home with all his torturous memory's and having an argument with a spouse/family member. Him pleading with her to stop as he loses control and eventually shoots her when she insists on continuing, the white flag representing an innocent life.

  6. anonymous
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    Jun 6th 2014 report

    Why are so many of you insisting that this is about Vietnam, or a father talking to his son. This is not a father talking to his son when he says hey son in the very first of the song he is using that as an expression the way a recruiter would as if he had gone to a high school to entice high school children to enlist. it's a pretty straightforward story. he tells about how boys go through basic training together and form a Brotherhood. he then goes on to talk about the soldiers first deployment and how he didn't understand why they would torture someone at first. this is a very important part of the song also the soldier not only regrets his actions with the woman carrying the white flag in the last verse but also his actions in interrogating and torturing prisoners. he already starts to feel the remorse for his actions before the woman even occurred which is why when he sang the chorus again he said damn with more ferocity. the last of the song speaking about the woman is something that tears many men apart. he shot an innocent civilian because he had no other choice due to the possibility that she posed a threat to him or his brothers. these crosses became too much for him to bear alone. but it is obvious that this was not about Vietnam because he is singing about fighting in the sand.

  7. anonymous
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    Dec 20th 2012 report

    This song is clear to its intent. As an infantryman, 360 degree security is the most important thing. You cover your sector to protect your brothers and they do the same. If a civilian approaches your sector, it's your job to stop, search, let pass, or send away. Hand/arm signals and voice commands keep them away from the group and hands in the air for potential suicide bombers. If they don't stop from there, you use escalation of force. 1. Hand and arm signals. 2. Voice commands. 3. Warning shot. 4. Do what is necessary to protect life limb or eyesight. That's what happened with the woman... It's sad, but the soldier didn't know her purpose. He has to realize that or it will drive him to his grave. I've killed a kid under orders to shoot anyone on a rooftop during a firefight. I've tightened flex cuffs on a detainees wrists so tight he had to have his hands amputated the next day. He was 1 of 6 (i think) detained after a remote detonated IED killed one American and severely injured another and the only one of them in that little 10,000 pop. Village from Pakistan. I could have ruined his life or I could've saved many. I could beat myself to death for shooting that kid, but what if he wasn't a kid, my finger was squeezing the trigger and sights were set on him before I even realized the age. Or even so, he could have still been the little fuck spotting for mortars... I'll never know or care. We must make split second decisions to make it back home and we can't allow those split second decisions slowly kill us when we do make it back home. This is now way too excessive... Apologies

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  8. anonymous
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    Aug 9th 2012 report

    This song tells a story of a man/ soldier being told that he is a hero when he comes home from war, the problem is that he doesn't believe he really is a hero. If you watch the video right before the verse

    "I got my man"

    You will see that he literally shoots another soldier. After the solder is shot, they take the owner of the house from his family and friends and began to beat him

    "They took off his clothes, they pissed in his hands I told them to stop but then I joined in"

    At first, he feels guilty and doesn't want to help beat him, but soon help beat him anyways and it makes him feel like shit.

    "She walked through bullets and haze I asked her to stop.....She collapsed with a flag in her hand A flag white as snow"

    Again he makes another mistake by shooting an innocent person and it again kills him inside!

    Bottom line is he is being told that he is a hero, he has medals and scars to prove it, inside his head albeit he is a bad person and it killing him inside.

  9. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 7th 2012 report

    An Military Recruiter convinces him to join the military.

    He said, “Son,
    Have you seen the world?
    Well, what would you say
    If I said that you could?
    Just carry this gun and you’ll even get paid.”
    I said, “That sounds pretty good.”

    While he is at basic training he receives black boots and they cut off his hair. They cut his hair off, but he accepts it. They marched and sang cadences and learned the basics of being in the military.

    Black leather boots
    Spit-shined so bright
    They cut off my hair but it looked alright
    We marched and we sang
    We all became friends
    As we learned how to fight

    In the first chorus he is saying that he really wants to be a hero of war, so everyone would be proud of him, even if he has to die for the country. Because he loves his country.

    A hero of war
    Yeah that’s what I’ll be
    And when I come home
    They’ll be damn proud of me
    I’ll carry this flag
    To the grave if I must
    Because it’s flag that I love
    And a flag that I trust

    Then he flashes back to his first arrest. They broke down the door and he told them to give up the man. The children in the room started crying. They took the man away from his family and friends with a bag over his face, to interrogation.

    I kicked in the door
    I yelled my commands
    The children, they cried
    But I got my man
    We took him away
    A bag over his face
    From his family and his friends

    Now they are at interrogation and the interrogators take of the mans clothes and tourture him. And while this happens the soldiers conscience kicks and and he tells them to stop. But then he is convinced to joins in.

    They took off his clothes
    They pissed in his hands
    I told them to stop
    But then I joined in
    We beat him with guns
    And batons not just once
    But again and again

    This chorus is the soldier trying to convince himself that he did the right thing to become a hero of war.

    A hero of war
    Yeah that’s what I’ll be
    And when I come home
    They’ll be damn proud of me
    I’ll carry this flag
    To the grave if I must
    Because it’s flag that I love
    And a flag that I trust

    There is a battle, and out of nowhere a little girl walks up. He begs her to stop so she doesn't get killed. But she doesn't. So he lifts up his M16 and shoots her several times.

    She walked through bullets and haze
    I asked her to stop
    I begged her to stay
    But she pressed on
    So I lifted my gun
    And I fired away

    He describes the even how a soldier who was forced to do this would remember it. He remembers every detail. As she collapses, he realizes that the girl is holding a white flag. This represents her surrendering her life.

    The shells jumped through the smoke
    And into the sand
    That the blood now had soaked
    She collapsed with a flag in her hand
    A flag white as snow

    Then when he thinks back at the events he questions how americans see someone like him with metals and scars. He takes home the white flag. And that is the only flag he trusts because he has seen the battle field and the war and people who worship the american flag don't really understand what is going on.

    A hero of war
    Is that what they see
    Just medals and scars
    So damn proud of me
    And I brought home that flag
    Now it gathers dust
    But it’s a flag that I love
    It’s the only flag I trust

    This repetition represents the idea that no matter how many people die and are scared for life the recruiter that recruited him is recruiting other people.

    He said, “Son, have you seen the world?
    Well what would you say,
    if I said that you could?”

  10. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 30th 2012 report

    Hi, Saferiscore here and would like too add that this song really impacted me. For example I'm kinda having second thoughts about entering into the U.S. Forces. 1.) what if I happen to be put in this situation, will i be able to hold back and stand strong or will I join in also ( caused by pear pressure) I want to be a true to my self but things just happens sometimes and you act in the moment sometimes for the good or the bad. 2.) My cousin never made it home form war and it reminds me of this(who to say Ill come back a "Hero of War" just fine and not in a box. 3.) What would make me any different then the people we are fighting if we are both fighting for the same thing HONOR and for our COUNTRY? could i get some advice on what to do cause I love my country and I don't mind fighting for it. But how will I know when I officially Ready.( probably will answer none can be officially ready.)

  11. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 13th 2012 report

    to put it simple this song is about a soldier going through the phases most do. at first he sees the money and the travel then he gets to bootcamp and he builds a strong bond with his brothers. he then enters combat and weather he dislikes an order or not he has to do it because of he doesnt it could mean the life of his brother but he knows in his head its the right thing to do maybe not for him but for the safty of his brothers and the country and he dreams of the day he gets back he'll be honored the way all soldiers should as a hero. but once they take the man his brothers start beating the man for intell and he dis agrees with their methods at first because he thinks its wrong to commit torcher. however as he sees his brothers do it he starts to think what if they think less of me what if they start watching my back because i refuse to help them so he gives into the preasure of it. he's torn up about it but he still has a job to do and he still holds onto the hope that even though he commited what he thought was a wrong doing that he can come back from it and return as a hero because thats all he ever wanted but then a woman starts charging and he yelling at her stop stop and he is forced to shoot her because he doesnt know if she is a threat or not he does it to save not just him but his brothers near him and when she falls he sees a white flag. so he returns and its just what he thought they pinned a little medal on him and said good job thanks your a hero but he still sees her face its burned in his mind thats why he says just medals and scars is that all they see. because they cant see her and what hes done and the metal scars. he rethinks that day and thinks what he could have done differently if she was a real threat or an innocent civillian and he thinks about weather he did the right thing or not. and he hates the war and whats its made him do so he holds to the hope that he can at least trust one flag...some see it as the white flag i like to think of it as the american flag becasue in mymind i would hold on to that hope that i could still trust it. maybe not the govt. behind it but what it truely stands for freedom and justice.

  12. anonymous
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    Jan 23rd 2012 report

    well I think that the interpretation by anonymous with the story is good ! Thats how i understood.
    Yet I believe that the verse with the woman could also be someone that he fell in love with, and he was convincing her to stay put because even though she was carrying a white flag it wouldnt do anything. He was so used to shooting things when he was angry or frustrated, and he just shot her not knowing.
    I dont know my theory is sort of out there. Yours does make total sense but I sort of just thought of this :P
    I love this song and I dont think it is criticising souldiers, but what war does to innocent people on both ends. The soldier, fighting for his country, and the unarmoured people mistaken for terrorists. I think it is trying to say : Even if a souldier did a good thing, he definintely didnt gain anything of it. Even the title doesnt mean anything after what he has experienced. It would be smart to just stop wars so noone has to actually hurt themselves to be loyal to their country. But I think that that is easily said, but not easily done.

  13. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 9th 2011 report

    To be honest, this song, like most others...is meant to be taken as it is. Art is supposed to have a different emotional effect on everyone who see's or hears it. This piece of art just happens to be on a controversial topic. I think most of you are delving to deep into it. Its a good song, easy to play and sing.

    Simply put, this song is about war and how it affects both the people doing the violence and the people receiving the violence. Although more towards the giving than the taking. He goes from wanting to go to war to hating it. Pretty simple.

  14. anonymous
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    Aug 7th 2011 report

    I think that in the song, the son says "Dad you were in the army once (veitnam maybe?), maybe I should join up too". So the Father replies "Just carry this gun, you'll even get paid". The Father then goes on telling his stories to his son, how at first it was okay, then it turned horrible. Then in the last verse/outro, the father asks him the question again, but sort of like, "So son, I've told you what it's like, what would you say if I said that you could?"

  15. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 18th 2011 report

    Soldiers don't take glory in taking the lives of the innocent. It's not what the Army stands for, and I think it's sick when it's praised. Killing the innocent is not protecting our country (which is why we have the armed forces). However, civilians who carry bombs and shoot at our soldiers are not the innocent.

    I think this song is from the soldier's perspective. How is he supposed to accept being a Hero of war, with all that he's done? Psychologically,they are never the same. War changes you, how could it not?

  16. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 7th 2011 report

    I just want to say about the lady that everyone thinks is either 'a suicide bomber' or 'a random civilian'
    Really, she was a peace maker, hence the white flag. But, they have a specific spot they have to stop at, and if they don't stop at that spot, it means they're enemies. They usually use women and children, because they bring out the feeling, and humanity in the soldiers. He has to shoot her, because she's an enemy.

    Just to clear that up for you all. (:

  17. Spc_NoName
    click a star to vote
    Jun 14th 2011 report

    As with a few others here, I'm living this war right now...for the 3rd time.

    Have to agree with most...in the beginning you have a young kid, speaking with a recruiter, who is using standard tactics to get one more name on the line.

    Once he joins, the kid wants to be nothing less than great...and tries to be so...then comes deployment.

    "They took off his clothes
    They pissed in his hands
    I told them to stop
    But then I joined in
    We beat him with guns
    And batons not just once
    But again and again"

    He knows, at least at first that whats going on right now is wrong. However, in a situation like this if you are the only one not doing something, you will be an outcast in your platoon...which is a very bad thing over here....so he join's them.

    Afterwards though, he still believes in what he's doing, still see's himself as a "Hero of war"

    Then you have this situation...

    "She walked through bullets and haze
    I asked her to stop
    I begged her to stay
    But she pressed on
    So I lifted my gun
    And I fired away"

    He was left with no choice but to fire. He didn't want to, he had to. Once he realized the situation he went and picked up the white flag she was carrying.

    When he got home, he was touted as a hero...but inside, he didn't feel he was a hero. He knew what he'd done, and wasn't proud of it.

    If you notice, the final chorus is changed.

    "And I brought home that flag
    Now it gathers dust
    But it’s a flag that I love
    It’s the only flag I trust"

    The flag he loves, and trusts...is the white flag. Because it reminds him of what has happened in his life. Of what he's done.

    Then the tail end, is the recruiter getting the next name on his list...one more kid to go through the same thing. Its cyclic.

  18. Will Blatter
    click a star to vote
    Jun 8th 2011 report

    My first impression on this song (especially after watching the video) was regrets of a soldier. He never wanted to take this guy with a bag over his head from his family and friends and beat him. but he dud cause thats what hes expected to do.

    The last verse changes from "a hero of war ya thats what ill be and when i come home theyll be damn proud of me" to "a hero of war is that what they see just medals and scarrs so damn proud of me" thats really amazing. Like he was excited to be praised for killing people in the way but when he experienced it, hes scarred and hates what he did. But everyone else just keeps saying "oh my son, the hero" is that what WE see? just the good things of war? i love call of duty but thats exactly what this is. It glorifies war, ya its fun as hell but it shouldnt make you want to go fight in a war just cause of that. people dont see that bad side of war where you see your friends leg get blown off. I think thats what this song is about, a veterans regrets and how people dont recognize that stuff

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