My family has had several members serve in the military, in fact I participated in ROTC in high school with the intention to attend the Air Force Academy. The military environment provided me with a lot of structure that plays an important role in my life, even today. Unfortunately, I was too short to get accepted and later that year I also discovered Phish and my lifestyle changed completely. However, I have never lost sight of the respect and honor that our service men and women deserve. This song brings me back to a distinct moment in my life – the first time I ever saw my step-father cry. We had made a trip to Washington D.C., and this was to be his first visit to the Wall. He had served in the Air Force and fought in Vietnam. The emotion I saw in his face is something I will never forget. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to fight in a war, not then and not now.
The stories and memories of those who fought will live on, like the shadowbox of military decorations in the living room, the Civil War battlefield 5 miles from my apartment or the songs written as tributes to those whom we have lost along the way. They remain, and the stories must live on and be heard, like that of Matthew Conley. We need to be reminded every once in a while, why we as a country began fighting in the first place – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
For your listening enjoyment, I have uploaded a recent Jason Isbell show so you can hear Dress Blues and many of his other great songs:
Finally, I wanted to address something that happened when I saw Umphrey’s in Athens last week. Between the second set and encore the guys played a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech. It was a tribute to the preacher from Georgia who passed away 40 years to the day of their show. Was it a response to my last column? Doubtful. However, that 30 second clip of his speech served as a reminder as to why I volunteer my time with HeadCount in the first place. So thank you Umphrey’s, not only for a great run of shows but to borrow Bayliss’ line it ‘reminded me of why [I’m] here.’