The country star wraps a promotional trek for his new album "Just As I Am" with a somber visit to the national cemetery on Memorial Day
Monday afternoon wrapped up the week-long promotional tour that Brantley Gilbert has been on for his just-released "Just As I Am" album, and it could not have ended in a more emotional spot for the "Bottoms Up" performer – with a stop at Arlington National Cemetery. Gilbert laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and admitted to Billboard that he was just a little bit nervous taking part in such an important ceremony. Minutes before, he was given a history of the exact protocol of the Changing of the Guard, as well as the upkeep and maintenance of the uniforms, and he said he was definitely a little bit intimidated.
"Anytime there is something that formal, and you watch those guys – their uniforms are down to 1/64 of an inch, you don't want to be pigeon toed out there. I was a little nervous," he told The 615.
Just walking through the honored grounds of America's most historic cemetery gave Gilbert a pause for reflection on Memorial Day. "There are a lot of graves out here, and I learned something today that I didn't know – the spouses and the direct children are buried with the soldiers. They bury them on top of each other, so you don't know how many people may be buried here. It makes you realize what kind of sacrifices this country has endured so that we can do the things we enjoy doing. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to saddle up on a motorcycle whenever I wanted to if it weren't for every war we've been in, and those who have sacrificed."
The tour / motorcycle ride – dubbed "From Athens To Arlington" also brought attention to Folds of Honor, an organization that assists the survivors of fallen veterans. "It makes you realize how small you actually are, and how big something that something that started off in a conversation can become. When it comes to the Folds of Honor. You see the effect and the positive things it does for these families."
Gilbert also placed a wreath at the grave-site of Captain Dennis Michael White of the United States Air Force - along with Captain White's daughter, Sarah. That experience brought the true meaning of what's important to the singer in total perspective. "This record is a big thing in my life. I'm very excited about it, and we worked a long time on it, but tying something like Folds of Honor in with it makes you realize how small something like that is too. Being able to show some light on these heroes is irreplaceable. I'm just proud to be a part of it."
One track from "Just As I Am" that will make an impact on anyone who has served – or lost someone who has served their country is the gripping "One Hell Of An Amen," which Gilbert said was partially inspired by a fallen hero. "One of my dearest friends from back home was an Army Ranger. He lost his best friend over there, and watched it happen. The guy was in front of him in a Humvee, and he got hit and blown up. He was telling me about the situation and talking to the guys’ dad and his family, and how much that affected him."
Upon hearing the story, Gilbert was moved to put his feelings to paper. "I wasn’t with my friend Josh, but the feelings I felt when he was telling me the story were nowhere near close to what he felt, but visually I felt like I could see it. I felt like I was there. I actually got a chance to meet his friend’s sister at a show. The first verse of 'One Hell Of An Amen’ talks about a soldier’s funeral. It’s real broad and general, but after meeting her, it hit me even harder. Number one single are cool, and they are a blessing, but the most rewarding part of my job is when a person comes up to me and says ‘That song you wrote helped me through this situation.' Talking with her about that song, it really hit home hard. It felt like the right place to write it from. I think my co-writers, Mike Dekle and Brian Davis. would agree with me."