This song was inspired by the 2006 documentary The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends, which focuses on soldiers' Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after returning home from war. The song tells the story of a guy who enlists in the military, figuring he'll be celebrated as a war hero after he does his duty. He ends up fighting overseas under horrific conditions, and ends up torturing a prisoner and killing a civilian under duress.
When the video was released, Rise Against issued this statement:
"'Hero Of War' is the story of one soldier, not all soldiers, as he battles not just the war around him, but the war that rages within. Inspired by true events, we were given the choice to either document the tribulations of these times as they unfold around us, or ignore them.
To ignore these problems, in our opinion, is letting down the brave men and women who risk everything. 'Hero Of War' is our attempt to lift the stigma that surrounds everything from the skyrocketing suicide rate of troops, torture, internal sexual abuse, an under-funded VA, and the growing number of military personnel fighting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as they return home."
This wasn't released as a single, but it's one of Rise Against's most popular songs and got a music video to go with it. The video was directed by Meiert Avis, Jason Lehel and Chris Ledoux; it shows the soldier's journey from recruitment to the horrors of war.
McIlrath told Billboard magazine why the band made a video even though the song wasn't released as an official single. He explained: "I think this is such an important song in our band's career. In a world that really tends to only listen to the singles and only skims (albums) this one hasn't seen enough of the light of day, but I just thought this is a story that needs to be told. So we're hoping that by doing a video it will bring some more attention, even if it's not an official single."
Rise Against guitarist Zach Blair, who joined the band for the Appeal To Reason album, told Ultimate-Guitar about this multi-layered acoustic guitar song: "That was a song Tim (McIlrath, frontman) had in the studio and it was one of those things that was like it was his baby; it was his whole thing. It's a brilliant song and it might raise a few eyebrows but I stand behind it a hundred percent. It will be when we do it live; when we do a lot of radio and we're promoting the record, Tim and I do a lot of the acoustic songs. It first it was gonna be real bare bones, just one acoustic guitar line, but they started adding more things on to it. Such is the case: This band gets real layered sometimes and it's always best to layer a lot and take away afterwards. Yeah, that one got real layered; it was always just Tim sittin' there by himself just goin' for it."