When Johnny Came Marching Home

He got off the plane, looked at no one
Walked down the tarmac in the direction of nowhere
He followed the sun as it was setting
Glad to be done with all the bloodletting
There were no banners for the proud and the few
Just workers in airports that do what they do
Fuel up the planes, unload the bags
Along with the coffins all covered in flags
When Johnny came marching home

The town he was from was a dead little place
So he looked for a job somewhere off-base
In this city of pawn shops and hotels and bars
Gas stations, strip clubs, highways and cars
He went to a dive, ordered a beer
Said turn the music up loud so it’s all that I hear
Try to rewind, turn back the years
Stop the explosions between my ears
When Johnny came marching home

The jobs were all shit and the beer it was cheap
And besides there was no other way he could sleep
Still the screams and the guns would wake him at night
And he was always on edge and ready to fight
And when he closed his eyes he would just see the face
Of a woman he killed in a far-away place
Over and over, the white of her eye
And her final and terrible terrified cry
When Johnny came marching home

After just a short time his health fell apart
With an ache in the joints and such a thump in the heart
And the doctor just told him it’s all in his head
But he couldn’t stop drinking or get out of bed
And with no place to go but the wrong way
It was a shock to his ears when he heard himself say
Over and over to anyone within range
Hey mister, can you spare some change
When Johnny came marching home

Sheet music:
When Johnny Came Marching Home

“When Johnny Came Marching Home” originally appeared on the 2005 Bandcamp album, Waiting for the Fall.  Then it got the full band treatment on Halliburton Boardroom Massacre (CD, 2006), and later appeared on the 2009 CD, Waiting for the Fall — a Retrospective.

I guess this would be several generations of the folk process on this particular song.  In this case just the title remains of the process, turned to the past tense.  The very sadly timeless image of the homeless war veteran panhandling by the side of the road.

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