Crickets fade into the low drone of a bagpipe as the males of the 1st Air Cavalry Division nervously peer through the tall grass of Vietnam’s main highlands. The order pertains to fix bayonets, and also as the soldiers on display screen prepare for deadly close-quarters combat, the haunting tune of “Sgt. MacKenzie” overtakes the sounds of the soldiers relocating to call.

You are watching: We were soldiers lay me down

The memorable song from We Were Soldiers’ climactic fight was offered again to equivalent effect in 2012’s End of Watch. Following the film’s finale, the familiar drone of bagpipes leads audiences to an emotional conclusion. 

As the color guard prepares and a seemingly endless procession of patrol cars provides its means to a funeral, the song overpowers the actions on display. And while “Sgt. MacKenzie” moves audiences with its beautiful bagpipes and touching lyrics, the true story behind its beginning is a tragic historical footnote.

A UH-1D Iroquois helicopter climbs skyward after inserting soldiers close to Ia Drang. Photograph by Katie Lang, courtesy of DVIDS.

The song’s namesake, Sgt. Charles Stuart MacKenzie, offered with the Seaforth Highlanders — a Scottish regiment of the British Military — in the time of World War I. He was supposedly wounded and also briefly sent earlier to Scotland also to recuperate. While recuperating, he was asked what killing Germans was choose, to which he responded, “What a waste of a fine body of males.” 

Sgt. MacKenzie shortly returned to his unit, and in 1917, the Seaforth Highlanders were involved in the Battle of Arras: the same battle Siegfried Sassoon famously referenced in “The General.” Tbelow, Sgt. MacKenzie decided to reprimary by the side of a wounded comrade quite than leave him to the advancing Germans. According to his great-grandkid, Joseph Kilna MacKenzie, Sgt. MacKenzie was then bayoneted to death in the ensuing battle.

The nature of his great-grandfather’s fatality touched Joseph MacKenzie, spurring him to eventually write the relocating melody. Joseph MacKenzie was the beginning member of the percussion band Clann An Drumma and first sang the tribute on their 2000 album, Tried & True.

Knowing the fate of the genuine Sgt. MacKenzie renders the song’s lyrics all the even more meaningful. 

Lay me down in the cold cold ground / Wbelow prior to many kind of more have actually gone / When they come / I will stand also my ground / Stand also my ground, I’ll not be afraid / Thoughts of home take ameans my fear / Sweat and also blood hide my veil of tears / Once a year say a prayer for me / Cshed your eyes and remember me / Never even more shall I see the sun / For I fell to a German’s gun.

When the song recorded the ear of Randall Wallace — the writer behind Braveheart and We Were Soldiers — he encouraged MacKenzie to redocument the song for his Vietnam battle film, this time with the addition of a full orchestra and backup vocals from West Point’s choir. The outcome is the hauntingly beautiful ode we’ve all heard on the huge display screen.

“The response to ‘Sgt MacKenzie’ has been overwhelming. <…> It’s incredibly humbling to hear stories of exactly how the song has actually moved, touched and also motivated people all over the world,” Joseph MacKenzie stated adhering to the release of We Were Soldiers.

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Though Joseph Kilna MacKenzie died in 2009 and never before gained to check out his song supplied in another film, the affect of his touching tribute to his great-grandfather has advanced from an ode to the fallen of World War I to an homage to all those who sacrifice in service to others.

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