26: Have You Forgotten?

26: Have You Forgotten?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Have You Forgotten?

Story by Darryl Worley

Song written by Darryl Worley and Wynn Varble

Recorded by Darryl Worley

In 2002, Jack Tilley invited us to be a part of the Hope and Freedom Tour. We started in Kuwait and then went on to Afghanistan, but we spent most our time in Afghanistan.

When you go to a place like that with someone like him, you see things that most entertainers are not going to see. It’s his job to go into the toughest places and talk to the troops. He’s their liaison and takes the word back to Washington and says, “This is what the boys and girls need out there.” So we went not just to the big airbases and places where there was a lot of security, but also to all the forward operating bases and the small outposts. We were able to take our flattops and go out there with him. It was a very surreal and eye-opening experience for me.

When we started flying home, I told my manager at the time, “When I get home, I want to do something for these troops. I’m not sure what form it’s going to take, but I want to do something.” I grew up in a military family and I grew up thinking I knew all about these things, but I came back from there with a new saying: “You don’t really know until you go.” I never had really written anything about 9/11. I hadn’t digested the whole experience yet, and I started thinking, “What could I write that would pull all of this together?”

While I was there, I was amazed at how many soldiers had reupped as a result of 9/11. The level of patriotism and commitment was really inspiring. I got to thinking about how I felt on 9/11, jumping in my vehicle and heading home to West Tennessee from Nashville. I drove mostly on the back roads and there were flags flying and bumper stickers everywhere. It was like driving down a parade route. I thought, “What a shame that it takes something of this magnitude and something this horrendous to make us pull together and display our colors and shout from the mountaintops that we are Americans.” I don’t know that I’ll ever see anything like that again.

When I got home from my trip to Afghanistan, I got my stuff together and headed back here to West Tennessee so I could be home for Christmas. It was Christmas Eve 2002 and I drove that same route and I remember only seeing a flag or two. It just ripped my heart out, and I thought, “Here we are just a year after this tragedy and people are already starting to forget.” I thought, “We have to write a song to remind people what happened.”

Right after 9/11, I had gone to a gym near where I live and I saw a guy there who I’ve known most of my life. He was just about in tears because his daughter had been trapped in New York City when this happened. They couldn’t reach her for a day or two and they didn’t know if she was okay or what had happened. They were basket cases. I wanted to help them, but there was really nothing anybody could do. She ended up being fine and she got out of there.

Then, after I got back from Afghanistan, I saw the same guy at the same gym and he made a comment that floored me. He said, “I think this country’s just looking for a fight.” It caught me off guard. First of all, anybody who thinks that we could’ve taken that lick on the chin and not done anything about it, as far as I’m concerned, is a nut. I looked at him and said, “Are you the same guy who was a basket case when his daughter was missing for two days? Maybe I misunderstood your story or something because I don’t think you’re even the same guy.”

At that moment, I thought, “Somebody needs to just give people a good slap across the noggin and wake them up.” I came back to Nashville and sat down with Wynn Varble and we started talking about it and he said, “I had the exact same conversation the other day with someone and I just wanted to grab him around the throat and say, ‘Have you forgotten?’”

When he said that, I told him, “That’s our song title. That’s not just about 9/11. It’s about all of our history. It’s about all the soldiers who went out and laid their lives down over the years. This could be huge. It could be almost like an anthem.” We wrote it in an hour and a half. It just fell out. We went to lunch and then came back to see if we had it all tweaked. We played it two or three times and decided we weren’t going to change anything.

It just floors me how, if our soldiers make a mistake out there in the field somewhere and we botch something, the media will take that and turn it into a huge fiasco. But when somebody comes against us, it’s always downplayed and excused. What that does is it breeds complacency and people start thinking, “I guess we’re just supposed to forget about that. And our wonderful government will take care of us.” And it’s just not always like that.

The most frustrating thing about this song is that a lot of people thought I was trying to make a comparison between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, which I wasn’t. I wrote it after going to Afghanistan and I mention bin Laden in the song, but because it came out about the time we were going into Iraq, people thought I was talking about that.

I don’t want people constantly walking around in a state of anger or fear, but we’ve got to make ourselves aware. We have the greatest country and enjoy the greatest amount of freedom of any nation, and there is a big part of the world that despises us just for that. They are very envious of that. Since the beginning of this country, we have had enemies and we’ve had to fight and fight and fight, just like other countries have had to do, to preserve what we have. And the memory of that should stand for something and we need to be aware of where our freedom comes from. I think of myself as a patriot. I want people to know that I love this country and our way of life and that there are a lot of other men and women out there who have proved that by their sacrifices.

I think this song is going to be around for a while, and it will always stand on its own. I feel blessed that we got to be the vehicle to deliver it.

Have You Forgotten?

I hear people saying we don’t need this war

But I say there’s some things worth fighting for

What about our freedom and this piece of ground?

We didn’t get to keep ’em by backing down

They say we don’t realize the mess we’re getting in

Before you start your preaching, let me ask you this my friend

Have you forgotten how it felt that day?

To see your homeland under fire

And her people blown away?

Have you forgotten when those towers fell?

We had neighbors still inside going through a living hell

And you say we shouldn’t worry about bin Laden

Have you forgotten?

They took all the footage off my T.V.

Said it’s too disturbing for you and me

It’ll just breed anger, that’s what the experts say

If it was up to me I’d show it every day

Some say this country’s just out looking for a fight

Well, after 9/11, man, I’d have to say that’s right

Have you forgotten how it felt that day?

To see your homeland under fire

And her people blown away?

Have you forgotten when those towers fell?

We had neighbors still inside going through a living hell

And we vowed to get the ones behind bin Laden

Have you forgotten?

I’ve been there with the soldiers

Who’ve gone away to war

And you can bet that they remember

Just what they’re fighting for

Have you forgotten all the people killed?

Yeah, some went down like heroes in that Pennsylvania field

Have you forgotten about our Pentagon?

All the loved ones that we lost and those left to carry on

Don’t you tell me not to worry about bin Laden

Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten?

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