Bruce Springsteen has written many heartfelt songs about the plight of America’s veterans, from 1984’s “Born in the USA” to 2005’s “Devils and Dust.” But perhaps the most personal one came in 2014 when he released “The Wall” in honor of his teenage buddies Walter Cichon and Bart Haynes. Cichon was the frontman of the Jersey bar band the Motifs, and Haynes was the drummer in Springsteen’s first band, the Castiles.
“Both Bart and Walter were killed in action in Vietnam when they were very, very young,” Springsteen told the crowd at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Time Warner Cable Arena on April 19th, 2014, before a devastating rendition of “The Wall.” “They were 19, at best. It was a tremendous, tremendous loss to our neighborhood, to our town, to that thing inside of you that feels somehow that the best [people] should get their shot.”
Springsteen was inspired to write “The Wall” after visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in December 1997 when he was in Washington, D.C., for the Kennedy Center Honors. He saw Cichon’s name on the wall and then soon found himself sitting near Robert McNamara at the Kennedy Center. The former Secretary of Defense played a huge role in sending people like Cichon off to Vietnam in the first place.
“Cigarettes and a bottle of beer, this poem that I wrote for you,” Springsteen wrote. “This black stone and these hard tears are all I got left now of you/I remember you in your Marine uniform laughing, laughing at your ship-out party/I read Robert McNamara says he’s sorry.”
As we remember brave Americans like Cichon and Haynes on this Veteran’s Day, check out Springsteen’s performance of “The Wall” from Charlotte in 2014.
“For any of our veterans out there,” he told the crowd. “Not just Vietnam, but Iraq, Afghanistan. This is a short prayer for my country.”
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