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Posted on Sat. Jan. 19, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

Decatur natives write song to remember fallen U.S. troops

They hope a major country artist will record it to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project

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It was a difficult request for a mother to get:

Decatur native Julie Brenner's son, Seth Garner, had asked her to write to him while he was away at U.S. Army basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. Then he asked her to write him a “fallen hero” song — one that remembers a soldier who doesn't make it home.

The result was “My Brother the Soldier,” which Brenner wrote as a poem and asked childhood friend Amy Snyder to put to music.

Now the women hope a major country music artist will record the song and agree to donate sale proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, which assists wounded U.S. military veterans after they come home.

“I see it as a tribute to people who lay their life down for their country,” Snyder said of the song.

“Today I heard my momma cry,

I didn't need to ask her why,

Today we got the news,

That my brother, a soldier, had died.”

— “My Brother the Soldier”

Brenner's son started basic training last February and graduated in May, she said by phone from Kingman, Ariz., where she now lives. A private in the Army's 101st Airborne Division, he is at Fort Polk in Louisiana preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.

When she started to write “My Brother the Soldier,” all Brenner could think of were the words, “Today I heard my momma cry.” She went with it.

“It was about my son, and I was the mom crying, so the singer had to be my daughter, Chelsea,” Brenner said.

The song came together in about 15 minutes, she said. She did some minor tweaking of the wording later after Snyder put it to music.

Brenner and Snyder had been childhood friends while growing up in Decatur. They drifted into other interests as they moved into high school, Brenner said.

But when Brenner heard Snyder was coming back to Decatur last May to play a patriotic Memorial Day concert, she contacted her to ask for help with music for “My Brother the Soldier.”

Snyder, who now lives in Taylor, S.C., near Greenville, has taught piano for more than 30 years and also does composing and arranging. She has written about 75 songs and has recorded four CDs of her music.

After her concert in Decatur, Snyder and Brenner sat down to talk about the lyrics Brenner had written for her son's song and for a few other songs.

“My Brother the Soldier” jumped out at her, Snyder said.

“At this time we are living in, I thought this would be relevant to a lot of people,” she said, adding, “I have a soft spot for patriotic things.”

“Taking heavy fire during the end,

Taking charge and running in,

Saving his friends from the attack,

Only to take a fire in the back.”

Snyder started working on the music in June and had it ready for Brenner about a week later. To help get the song out to the public, they had it recorded.

Snyder recruited one of her piano students, Reece Diaz-Verry, 15, who also takes voice lessons, to sing the song. A friend of Snyder's husband recorded the performance at his studio near Greenville. The studio owner also filled in on bass guitar, and his son played drums.

Brenner said it really became a song for her in early December when Chelsea's husband, Josh, blended the song with photos of U.S. soldiers at war, wounded and being buried to create a music video he posted to YouTube (at www.youtube.com, search for My Brother the Soldier Josh Taylor)

“Every time I watch it, tears come to my eyes,” Brenner said.

Even before the video posting, Brenner had been busy trying to get the song noticed.

She took a pre-mix of the song to radio station WZBD, 92.7-FM, which serves Berne and Decatur, where it received some air play before Thanksgiving.

Brenner also has sent out CDs of the song to family and friends. She also took CDs to Nashville, Tenn., where she dropped them off at Capitol Records and a recording studio in hopes the song would get noticed by a top country music singer.

Along the way, Brenner said she also thought that, in addition to dedicating the song to her son and daughter, they also should dedicate it to two fallen Adams County heroes: Staff Sgt. Phillip Jenkins of Decatur was killed in 2010 while serving in Iraq. Spc. Nicholas Taylor of Berne died in July in Afghanistan.

That led Brenner and Snyder to the idea that money raised by sale of the song should be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

“Sitting there as they folded up the flag,

With such precision and guide,

They gave it to my mother and I,

With ever so much pride,

Even though a hero was he,

That day a little of my mother and I died.”

Snyder also hopes the song encourages people, just like so many in the U.S. military, to think of others rather than of themselves.

“There is so much me, me, me now,” she said. “There's a lot of people who see beyond that and think about others first. If that involves sacrificing themselves, they'll do it.”

Brenner wrote another song for her son, “Just One More Battle,” a positive one about a soldier getting through the last night before he comes home after completing his tour of duty.

“He is finally realizing that the time to be deployed is getting nearer and nearer, and reality is setting in,” Brenner said of her son in an email. “I hope this one will psych him up and be determined to want to make it back. He needs moral support to get through this.”

“Today I heard my momma cry,

I didn't need to ask her why,

Today we got the news,

My brother, a hero, had died,

Today we got the news,

My brother, a hero, had died ... .”

(Copyright Forever Jules LLC)

kkilbane@news-sentinel.com


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