Erik Dylan Honors Deceased Vietnam Veteran With Poignant ‘Omaha’ [Listen]
Inspiration can strike at any moment — just ask singer-songwriter Erik Dylan.
During a morning news segment which aired on Nov. 29, Dylan learned that 1,500 strangers attended a Vietnam veteran's funeral in Omaha, where it's not believed the late soldier had any relatives. Research led the country singer to the obituary of 73-year-old Army Pfc. Stanley Stoltz in the Omaha World Herald.
"Public invited to cemetery to honor Vietnam veteran with no known family. Internment at Omaha National Cemetery on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 2PM," it stated. More than 400 veterans also showed up to pay their respects. Dylan grabbed a piece of paper and within 15 minutes had written a new song named for the town that moved him, "Omaha."
Dylan, a lifelong Guy Clark fan, says "Omaha" is written with his style in mind. He was careful not to make the track too boisterous.
"I didn't want it to feel like too triumphant for attending a veteran's funeral," he tells Taste of Country over the phone. "I wanted to speak from the point of view of a person who didn't know this veteran, saw the news, and decided, 'Let's grab the kids and go to this veteran's funeral.' Just go to support a person that might be buried alone."
Honey pack up the kids
Cause we’re headed to Omaha
In lieu of his family unknown
The paper says he was a Vietnam solider
And he needs some help getting back home
After getting the lyrics down, Dylan went downstairs into his home studio and recorded guitar and vocals. He sent it to a friend, Ryan Miller of the Beer Vs. Bourbon podcast, who asked if he could debut "Omaha" on an episode the following afternoon. Dylan never planned to release the song himself, but he agreed and sent his stripped-down version to Los Angeles-based producer Alexander Palmer, who fleshed it out. By 8 that night, he had the final mix of "Omaha."
Dylan posted the song to his official Facebook page on Saturday. The response has been overwhelming — he has even heard from some people who attended Stoltz' funeral! One person says there were so many cars at the cemetery, there wasn't anywhere to park, so people sat in their cars on the highway while the late veteran was honored. Dylan's words have pulled people in, especially the third verse, which is about how the veteran never talked about the war. That's true for many soldiers coming home from battle, and the country singer hopes the song urges people to check in on veterans.
Yeah nobody knows who he was over there
Guess he’d like to keep it that way
Hell it ain’t no surprise that he didn’t talk much
Bout the things a guy takes to the grave
"News stories come and go, but I do really believe that a song sticks around. So maybe this helps out in the future. We're going to have similar situations with guys that are my age that served in the Middle East, and they're going through things right now," he says.
"My hope would be that we try to check in on our veterans before we have to go to their funeral. That's what I would like to see — that everyone finds one person to check on, to see how they're doing. That to me, is all I would ever want from this type of song," Dylan says.
"It hurt writing that song for me, and there's only a few songs that I can say that's ever happened, where you're actually in pain when you're writing the song because you're thinking about the whole situation. But those are also the songs that I love to write, because they're more of a gift than they are anything else because I don't know where it came from. I don't know why I wrote that song other than seeing the story, and I just opened up and became a conduit for what was there."
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