It wasn’t musical ambition that helped upcoming country music singer Cody Wayne pen the words to his new single.
The Marine veteran, based in Henderson, Texas, didn’t know how to explain what he experienced after a 2007 deployment to Iraq. The words just wouldn’t come out right.
So eventually, he wrote a song.
Wayne has written plenty of songs. He was named 2017 male vocalist of the year and entertainer of the year at the Texas Country Music Awards and 2018 new male vocalist of the year at the Texas Regional Radio Annual Music Awards.
But, for years the lyrics to "Remember the Lost Ones” mostly sat in a notebook ― only coming to life on patriotic holidays or for small shows with family and friends.
But people kept asking for it. And eventually, Wayne realized it would help more people than just him, so he complied. The single is on Wayne’s new album “Bad Influence," with the music video premiering here on Nov. 11.
“Remember the lost ones when you go and order a tall one,” the lyrics go. And that’s what Wayne is urging his fellow veterans and all Americans to do this Veterans Day and every day.
It’s “military heaven that’s done everything for us,” Wayne said. “They don’t want a big extravagant thing done in their honor. Every now and then a tip of the glass, tip of the hat, to say thank you.”
“There’s a lot of people who can’t drink this drink right now."
‘Like I’m back over there’
Wayne played the trombone in junior high and was around music with his family ― but it was never something he spent time on.
It was at his first duty station as a communication technician in Iwakuni, Japan, that Wayne’s roommate had a guitar in their barracks room.
“Finally one time I said, ‘Show me how to play that thing,'” Wayne told Marine Corps Times in an October phone interview.
“So he showed me a couple things, and I’d go play for a while and I’d come back and he’d show me a couple more things.”
After Japan, it was back stateside for an assignment in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and a workup for deployment in Iraq.
“I never had any aspirations to play guitar or sing … but it was always there," Wayne said. "I kept finding myself going back to playing guitar all the time.”
It was that music that helped Wayne find words when he got home from Iraq.
“Before they hear the words I want them to be able to see it and smell it and feel like they are there,” Wayne said.
The opening drums “sounds like a distant explosion ― whether it be mortar shells or whatnot. The snare drum comes in with a five round burst from machine gun from 240 and goes back to it. It really sets a feeling."
"When I close my eyes in the studio, it sounds like I’m back over there.”
A tip of the glass
Cody Wayne had lost his father in a work accident when Wayne was 15 years old.
He then spent years of his teenage life wandering “with no true direction.”
It was the Marine Corps, which he joined at age 20, that helped him find “a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose," according to a news release.
“I wanted to challenge myself and really prove to myself that I could actually accomplish something," Wayne told Marine Corps Times.
In the Marine Corps Wayne found the test that he was looking for: The test that let him prove to himself he could do more than he thought he could.
It still had its dark moments.
The Marine with the bunk next to Wayne was killed during that 2007 Iraq deployment.
Wayne had just spoken with him the night before.
“I remember talking to him about his family and his four kids,” Wayne remembered.
The next night when Wayne went to bed, the bunk beside him was empty.
That memory still sticks with Wayne, and brings him to the brink of tears today.
For the “Remember the Lost Ones” music video, Wayne and his team solicited photos of service members from the Marines he served with and their family and friends as well.
All proceeds from the sale of the song will directly benefit The Boot Campaign, a nonprofit based in Texas that “provides life-improving programs for veterans and military families nationwide.”
“Every time you hear 21 guns, someone gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Wayne said.
“Their name is called three times and nobody answers.”
Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Times.