Autumn Letendre Encourages Others to ‘Raise Your Flag’ on the Five-Year Anniversary of Her Husband’s Death
Five years ago this week (May 3), country music newcomer Autumn Letendre received the news that no military wife ever wants to hear. Her husband, Captain Brian Letendre, was killed in the line of duty while serving our country and fighting for our freedom.
In wake of her own personal struggle to get through the difficult time, Letendre turned to music by releasing her debut single, 'Raise Your Flag' -- an anthem for not just those involved with the military, but America as a whole.
"Brian’s death was definitely a life changing experience," Letendre tells Taste of Country as she recalls being asked to be present when his 11-man team returned from overseas. "That was one of the hardest things that I didn't know if I could do at all. It was a very surreal moment. It was a place where I had stood countless times with the banners and balloons and all the things families do to welcome home their loved ones, but this time would be so different for me, as my husband would not be walking off that bus. Someone handed me an American flag and that was the only thing I had for strength at that moment, beyond my faith."
Letendre did the only thing she knew to do, and she took her flag and raised it proudly in the air. "The emotion of trying to hold that 3x5 flag in the air became this calling to me of how important it is to explain the strength it gave me that day," she says softly.
On the plane heading home from California, Letendre’s emotions were still riding high as she found inspiration in the folded up flag she had in her possession. "All the emotions that were within me in that moment were written on a cocktail napkin on the flight home, and it became my anthem that I would sing to myself," notes Letendre.
It wasn’t until two years after writing 'Raise Your Flag' that Letendre shared the emotional words with one of her husband’s close friends in the Marine Corps.
"[The song] was more of a poem to me," she says. "I've always created a melody to my poetry, and I sing them every day. That's how the verses are written, how the bridges and choruses are written. 'Raise Your Flag' was no different. I finally sang it to a Marine who had come to my house to ask if I needed help going through anything else of Brian's, which I did. I had yet to unpack several of Brian's boxes that had come home from Iraq because I didn't want to do it alone. So I asked him to do that with me. He was so gentle and gracious going through each and every item. I had this sense of, 'I've got to sing my song!' So I asked him if I could sing my song to him and his eyes got so big [laughs]! To ask someone that is probably a little funny, but he sat and listened and he cried. He cried very hard, and I'd never seen a big burly Marine break any kind of emotion, let alone tears. I said to him that I didn't know if I should do anything with it and he said, 'Yes. Do this. Do this for us.' That 'do this for us' statement has stuck with me."
Watch the Autumn Letendre ‘Raise Your Flag’ Video
In honor of her late husband, Letendre has compiled an album filled with emotional poems of which she turned into inspiring songs. "There are many families that are affected by the war that need these songs," Letendre says. "It's a military niche -- a patriotic niche -- but so many serve and so many have served, and all of us live here. So whether you are military or not, I would hope that because of the freedoms we all have, that people would raise their flag … that they would let people see the symbol of their pride and what they are fighting for."
Letendre’s debut album, 'Raise Your Flag,' is slated for release on Flag Day (June 14). The album contains many personal songs that have been difficult at times for the singer to get through, but she takes pride in knowing the material is making a difference on lives across the country. "[There's a song on the album called] 'Yellow Ribbon,' [which] I perform a lot," Letendre says. "That is for all the troops and families. The yellow ribbon has lost its symbolism, somewhat, and we need to make sure we understand what that yellow ribbon means."
"The project is my story and emotions wrapped into an album," she continues. "There’s a song I wrote about the day I delivered my son, Dillon, which was the day my husband crossed into Iraq in 2003. I didn’t know if Dillon would ever see his father, so I wrote 'Daddy Loves You,' and that song is very tender and personal for me because I actually sang that song to Brian. He didn’t get to hear any of the other songs [on the album], but at least that one he did."
The album contains a total of nine original tunes, and Letendre considers it a "thank you" to the troops for keeping our country safe.
"This album is the tears that I've cried, but it's also the life that has been lived," she says. "Brian didn't just die. He lived. It's fun to talk about it and sing about it, although at first I could hardly get onstage and sing without breaking down. The first two performances were just so terrible because trying to stay composed through that emotion was so difficult, but now I enjoy it. It's an incredible feeling to be able to sing it for us [at home] and [the troops]."