Toby Keith Paid Tribute To The American Soldier In Word And Deed

We never met, but I love Toby Keith. Not just his music, but the man. This is my short anecdote that explains why.

In 2004 my son was on his first of about a dozen combat deployments to the Mideast. He was then a 2nd Lieutenant with the 10th Mountain Division. It was the first of his many extended separations from his wonderful wife and, later, his precious son and daughter. My wife and I traveled to Ft. Drum to visit with him and his wife, and to be there when he boarded the plane, headed to war.

While there, I met a few members of his unit. One of my enduring recollections was of the support given to soldiers and their families by the Battalion Command Sergeant Major’s wife as they said their goodbyes, not knowing what the future held for any of them.

Not long after the battalion deployed, they were engaged in street fighting in Baghdad and suffered their first KIAs. Like all parents of deployed soldiers, I lived on pins and needles, reading and watching the news for any developments that could change our lives.

At the time, many people were repeating the mantra, “I support the troops,” but not everyone could or did act on that. I wanted to make some small gesture to show support for the families that the soldiers had left behind, to show that people they did not even know appreciated their sacrifice, too.

At the time I was a partner in a major international law firm. I spoke with the firm’s chairman, Gordon Rainey who is an Army veteran, and we came up with a plan. It was not a huge thing, but a way just to show that other people appreciated and had not forgotten the soldiers’ families back home.

Gordon and I collaborated on a letter of support to the wives and families of every soldier in the battalion. Gordon signed it as chairman on behalf of our firm. I made arrangements to have the letter, together with a small package of appreciation, delivered to the wives of every soldier in the battalion at Ft. Drum in upstate New York.

The other items I wanted to include in our little packages for the wives were a single yellow rose and a CD with Toby Keith’s hit song, “American Soldier,” which had just been released the prior November.

By 2004 Toby Keith was already a megastar with multiple No. 1 hits, including songs with pure American and patriotic themes, such as “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.” But I thought that the words of “American Soldier,” which Toby co-wrote, were particularly appropriate for the battalion’s wives and families at that difficult time. Read the complete lyrics below.

Because these CDs were coming from a law firm that was fastidious about such things, I knew that we had to get permission to make all the CDs with a copyrighted song. Not having any contacts in the Nashville music industry, I just approached the problem directly. I wrote to Toby Keith, explained the situation, and asked his approval to make hundreds of copies of “American Soldier” to send to the soldiers’ families.

I was not sure whether I would get a response. A famous artist like Toby Keith gets hundreds of letters from fans all over the world. Even with the aid of staff, he can’t read, much less respond to them all. But he did. Toby wrote back, kindly permitting us to make as many copies of “American Soldier” as we needed to show our support for the military families.

So, that is my small story of a thoughtful and patriotic gesture by one of our greatest entertainers. In the overall scheme of things, it was a small matter. Toby made many trips to Iraq, Afghanistan, deployed warships, and other venues to put on USO shows for the troops. He doubtlessly did not dwell on my request or even remember it later. But he allowed us to show our small measure of tangible support and appreciation for deployed soldiers’ families. To me that was a very big thing.

So, thank you, Toby Keith. You are a patriot who will be missed.

An American Soldier

I’m just trying to be a father
Raise a daughter and a son
Be a lover to their mother
Everything to everyone
Up and at ’em bright and early
I’m all business in my suit
Yeah, I’m dressed up for success
From my head down to my boots.

I don’t do it for the money
There’s bills that I can’t pay
I don’t do it for the glory
I just do it anyway
Providing for our future’s my responsibility
Yeah, I’m real good under pressure
Being all that I can be.

And I can’t call in sick on Mondays
When the weekends been too strong
I just work straight through the holidays
And sometimes all night long
You can bet that I stand ready
When the wolf growls at the door
Hey, I’m solid, hey I’m steady
Hey I’m true down to the core.

And I will always do my duty
No matter what the price
I’ve counted up the cost
I know the sacrifice
Oh, and I don’t want to die for you
But if dyin’s asked of me
I’ll bear that cross with honor
‘Cause freedom don’t come free.

I’m an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters
I will proudly take a stand
When liberty’s in jeopardy
I will always do what’s right
I’m out here on the front lines
Sleep in peace tonight
American soldier, I’m an American soldier.

Yeah, an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters
I will proudly take a stand
When liberty’s in jeopardy
I will always do what’s right
I’m out here on the front lines
So sleep in peace tonight
American soldier, I’m an American …

an American …
an American soldier.


John Lucas is a retired attorney who has tried and argued a variety of cases, including before the U. S. Supreme Court. Before entering law school at the University of Texas, he served in the Army Special Forces as an enlisted man, later graduating from the U. S. Military Academy at West Point in 1969. He is an Army Ranger who fought in Vietnam as an infantry platoon leader. He is married with five children. He and his wife now live in Virginia. John also is published at johnalucas6.substack.com.

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