In early 1969, at the height of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Daniel Maderic was attending school to become a mechanic. Knowing he’d get drafted, Maderic chose to join the Marines instead of possibly getting conscripted into the Army. He knew the training in the Marines would be intense, however, he wanted to go into the war with like-minded people who would “protect his back.”
Maderic served two years in Vietnam, where he experienced hardship and trauma. He would later channel those experiences into his song, “Why am I here.”
Maderic found Operation Song when his music therapist encouraged him to participate. He recalled that the program, organized by Bob Regan, was a great experience where songwriters shared their personal stories and songs to feel at ease. Maderic connected with co-writer Regie Hamm upon listening to the trials and tribulations that had changed Ham’s life. At the studio, Maderic reflected upon the death of his son and those he served with in Vietnam. He was able to channel the survivor’s remorse that he felt into writing a passionate song.
The song starts with an emotional piano introduction; the lyrics describe the sound of helicopter rotors, a key reminder of Maderic’s time in Vietnam. The melody builds with added percussion and soulful instruments in the background. This allows the listener to connect with the emotions that the lyrics convey about Maderic’s memories of leaving those he served with behind.
The chorus climaxes with powerful vocals that portray the magnitude and ardor of survivor’s guilt. His lyrics allow the listener to understand the bonds Maderic shared with his fellow Marines and the emotional struggles he faced upon arriving home. Guitar chords build up the background of this verse, adding to the soulful vocals, allowing listeners to empathize with the intensity of his internal struggle.
As the song progresses, it again builds to a new intensity. The lyrics take a somewhat hopeful tone: Maderic wants to help those who face a similar fight. The song closes with the Veteran voicing his feelings once again by asking, “Why am I here?”
Operation Song is a non-profit based in Nashville, Tennessee, that partners professional songwriters with Veterans, active military, and their families to help them tell their stories through song. Since 2012, they have written over 600 songs with Veterans of WWII to those currently serving. They hold weekly workshops (pre-COVID) in Middle Tennessee and sponsor events and group retreats throughout the U.S. Those who serve need no musical background, only the desire to tell their story. If you are interested in learning more about Operation Song or hearing more songs, please visit: http://www.operationsong.org/.
Writer: Harshini Ravi
Editor: Lauren Dahler
Graphics: Michelle Zischke