Honoring our own: Justin Moore’s “The ones who didn’t make it back home”

Justin Moore performing live in 2018 – Gilesvillalobos via Wikimedia Commons

The thought of a loved one never coming home is a sickening feeling. For many military families, that gut-wrenching feeling is constant, especially during a deployment. Constantly on edge, overthinking, and worrying makes being a part of that family almost as hard as serving. 

     Although not being one of the most well-known country artists, Justin Moore’s “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home,” released in 2019, struck the hearts of many, representing the hardships of having a loved one in the military. Moore honors those who fought and lost their lives for our freedom by “raising a glass” to them. In today’s society, the military is a controversial topic because some people believe that our soldiers are not important, and many people forget the sacrifice that the men and women in the military make to keep Americans safe and free.

     Moore’s hit song opens up with a loud, fast guitar and drum beat that captures the ear of the listener. Followed by soft lyrics that contrast the opening beat and set the tone for a sad song. 

     “She was planning a welcome home barbecue… there was a knock on the door ‘round two o’clock, two uniforms and her heart stopped, yellow ribbon ‘round an oak tree, blowing in the breeze.”

     The idea of a yellow ribbon around an oak tree is as old as war itself. Tony Orlando and Dawn released a song called, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.” The song was released in 1973, around the end of the Vietnam War, and the artists emphasize the respect of soldiers by tying the ribbon around an oak tree, and asking if people will still love them after being gone for so long.

     The excitement of a loved one returning from deployment is a feeling like no other, but the feeling of seeing two other military personnel appearing will sink one’s heart. Moore explains the heartbreaking feeling of seeing those two men outside your home, as a family regrettingly knows what will come next. The yellow ribbon is a common symbol for supporting the troops, and many people display this ribbon by putting it on their cars or trees. The yellow ribbon was displayed by families to remember loved ones overseas. 

“The hold up a beer ones, the wish they were here ones, the not forgotten but gone. They’re in a better place up there but they sure left a hole down here, we just go on living and go on missing the ones, the ones that didn’t make it back home.”


     Moore also touches on not only the loss of family members, but of friends and communities. Losing people who had a significant impact on the people and places around them. Moore depicts how towns hold up a beer and wish to have the ones they have lost by their side, and emphasizes how even though they are dead, people remember, love, and miss the soldiers who lost their lives. War is horrible and Moore remarks on the soldiers being in a better place than the battlefield after they have passed. 

     “The whole town shut down, the whole town showed up, sang ‘Amazing Grace’, watched a slideshow of his 22 years. There was laughs and there was tears, and that preacher talked about sacrifice.”

Veterans Memorial Park in Perry, Florida – Michael Rivera via Wikimedia Commons

     Moore reiterates the impact that the people who served had in the towns they were from and the people they were around. Also, “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” demonstrates how the soldiers lose a significant portion of their lives from serving and possibly being killed in action, while having so much more to live for. The true definition and example and of sacrifice. 

     “Back to that front porch, back through that front door, to the life they were fighting for.”

     Moore’s closing verse before the final chorus puts a heavy emphasis on a soldier’s remembrance from their family and friends back home, and the reason that they are fighting. In order to keep their loved ones safe, happy, and free.

Author: Jacob Stacey '21

Jacob Stacey ‘21 is a student in the journalism seminar. He is an avid reader of journalism pieces involving sports, politics, and other student opinions. Stacey works with the admissions office, giving tours to prospective students and families seeking to enroll at Haverford. Stacey is a member of the baseball team and does strength and conditioning with Coach Rosko in the offseason.