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The Controversial Concert for Valor

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CUA chapter.

One week ago on Veterans Day, celebrities, artists, and millions of Americans gathered on the National Mall to honor our active duty members and veterans. The concert was free to the general public, the gates opened at 10:00 am and the concert kicked off 7:00 pm. Many gathered early in the day to reserve spots.

In addition to musical performances from The Black Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Dave Grohl, Eminem, Jennifer Hudson, Jessie J, Metallica, Rihanna, and Zac Brown Band, there were special appearances from Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, John Oliver, Meryl Streep, and Boob Woodruff. The concert aired live on HBO so Americans who didn’t attend the concert could also enjoy the show from their homes.

While the concert was, in theory, a beautiful tribute to our veterans and current duty members’ courage, bravery, and valor, many were disappointed by the use of profanity and certain song choices that are perceived as anti-war, anti-draft, and anti-American songs. 

The first performance that sparked controversy was Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown’s version of Fortunate Son. Many wondered why a well-known anti-war and anti-draft song would be chosen at an event to honor those who volunteered to fight.

The most controversial lyrics of Fortunate Son are as follows:

“Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes

Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord

And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”

Oh, they only answer, more, more, more, oh”

The next performance that hyped a lot of buzz was Bruce Springsteen’s performance of Born in the U.S.A. Although many misinterpret this song as patriotic, the song’s lyrics were actually written by Springsteen about the problems he thinks Vietnam veterans faced when returning from war. Springsteen believes because the Vietnam War was the first war lost by the United States, Americans did not show the same amount of gratitude towards these veterans. When taking a closer look at the lyrics, it’s quite obvious that this is an anti-war and arguably anti-American song:    

“Born down in a dead man’s town

The first kick I took was when I hit the ground

You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much

‘Til you spend half your life just covering up…

I got in a little hometown jam

And so they put a rifle in my hands

Sent me off to Vietnam

To go and kill the yellow man…”

Song Fact: Born in the U.S.A’s original title was Vietnam until Springsteen was sent a movie script titled, “Born in the U.S.A”, about a rock band that struggles with the concepts of life and religion.

Due to the songs common misinterpretation, many Americans didn’t recognize the irony of Bruce performing this song.

Lastly, Eminem’s use of profanity triggered many mixed feelings by concert viewers. Eminem is a famous rapper, known for using profanity on a regular basis. However, some believed he crossed the line by saying F*ck over a dozen times. While some argue the veterans can handle the use of profanity as they surely have heard much worse at war, many are outraged by the lack of respect displayed by Eminem. 


Professor Wyrsch, a professor here at CUA and veteran who watched the concert from his home on HBO, made a few comments about the positive aspects of the concert,

“Thousands of people attended and expressed strong support and admiration for our veterans.  Young people were able to attend for free, in a friendly environment, and obviously enjoyed seeing the popular singers perform.  There were also some great personal stories about veterans, plus many quality veterans’ organizations were recognized (according to the Washington Post, there was an uptick in donations).”

However, Professor Wyrsch was also disappointed with a few things,

“There was a clear disconnect between the above pluses and the strong profanity and underlying messages of some songs, nationally televised, all taking place in front of our nation’s capitol and many families and war heroes, both young and old. I am quite sure there will be some serious thought and debate about the program-content of any future Concerts for Valor.  Needless to say, I have always had the greatest respect for our veterans, so I was quite upset with the negative aspects of the concert.”

photo credit: Justin Walker

Professor Wyrsch served as a lieutenant in the Army from 1967-1969, assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division; his two brothers served during that period as well. His son is presently a Major in the Marines Corps, a fighter jet pilot, having served for about 14 years with several deployments in the Middle East.

Regardless of the controversy, the true heroes and inspiration from the concert were the stories that were told and the thousands of stories that remain untold. Whether you agreed or disagreed with the profanity use or song choice, there was a magical feeling of patriotism that united the people on the mall that evening. Metallica reminded us by shouting, “Freedom isn’t free!” at the end of their performance that we owe our lives, quite literally, to those who serve.

There’s no better time than Thanksgiving to show your support and donate to any of the amazing organizations for our veterans. To donate visit: theconcertforvalor.com