Staff Sgt. Nathan Fair strums his guitar in Fort Myer, just outside Arlington National Cemetery, in late August 2014.
Between missions and under the hot desert sun in Iraq in 2005, Staff Sgt. Nathan Fair and Cpl. Anthony Peterson started writing a song about their fellow servicemembers who were killed in action.
The song “Fallen Soldier” gained momentum on YouTube recently, with more than 193,000 views. Both writers made it home, but Peterson lost his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder on Jan. 10, 2013.
"This is for the ones who ain’t coming back. Fought for the country in Iraq,” Fair sings.
In the video, Fair stops by the grave of Sgt. Maj. Tyson Nick, who while working as a contractor was killed in action in Afghanistan on Dec. 5, 2012, while trying to save a downed soldier.
“I was in Afghanistan with the 82nd [Airborne] and it just hits up pretty much everybody that I have ever lost or served next to me. It’s not about anyone in particular, although there is one person that I do think of once and a while,” Fair said.
That man, Staff Sgt. Eric Shaw, was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. He served with Fair in the 101st Airborne and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously Jan. 16, 2013.
The video was filmed in Section 60 and Lee Mansion at Arlington National Cemetery and in the Old Town area of Alexandria, Va., over a day and a half.
Despite thinking of Shaw once and a while, the song was written for everyone.
“It was about a handful of people. You see a lot of people go down around you. A buddy and I got together and started writing down words … It’s about all our guys we had lost in Iraq while I was with the 101st 10th Mountain,” Fair said.
Fair has deployed three times with U.S. Army: once with the 101st to northern Iraq in 2005, then to Baghdad in 2008 with the 10th Mountain Division and lastly with the 82nd to Afghanistan in 2012. He had briefly left the Army in 2006 and 2007 to contract with DynCorp, where he was sent to Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He is currently serving with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) out of Fort Myer, Va.
The song could have languished in obscurity if Fair hadn’t been encouraged to perform by his wife and fellow soldiers — for the first time — in a 2011 bar contest near Fort Bragg operated by a former Delta member Josh Collins. The contest took place at Huske Hardware House over several weeks, one that Fair ended up winning.
“I ended up playing [Fallen Soldier] that first night. It was supposed to be a two-song thing, but I only played one,” Fair said. “I did it, but didn’t expect anything.”
They helped him produce the song and put it on iTunes. An acoustic version of the song was posted to YouTube. Another soldier, Sgt. Spencer Fusselman, would film and edit the video after Fair returned from his last deployment, and it is that video that has taken off with viewers. They chose the grave marker of Sgt. Maj. Tyson Nick because he was a good friend of Collins, and it was a way to say thank you.
All the money Fair earns from “Fallen Soldier” gets donated to various organizations, such as the Wounded Warrior Project and Wounded Wear. He also donates time to various organizations that help veterans returning and integrating back into civilian life, such as Operation Restored Warrior and Warrior360. He donates to as many as he can.
With the success of this song, Fair will is releasing his first album, “Freedom Nation,” on Sept. 11. There are 14 songs on the album, 10 of which are patriotic-themed originals. The other four are covers.
“Music is the only way I can talk about the crap I’ve been through,” Fair said. He knows he has PTSD. He said that talking to other veterans about his experiences — and listening to theirs — helps. After the song was released, a military spouse reached out to him, worried about her husband. Fair asked for their phone number and reached out to him personally.
“It doesn’t matter what military branch you are part of,” Fair said. “We are all brothers and sisters. You need acceptance."