Music video by Dixie Chicks performing Travelin' Soldier (Live).
"Travelin' Soldier" is a song written and originally recorded by American country music artist Bruce Robison in 1996 and again, in rewritten form, in 1999. It was later recorded by Ty England on his 1999 album, Highways & Dance Halls. The first rendition to be issued as a single was by the Dixie Chicks in December 2002, from their album Home. It became the group's sixth and final single to reach No. 1 on Billboard "Hot Country Singles & Tracks" (now "Hot Country Songs"). A version of the song featuring Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Robison and Robison's wife, Kelly Willis, appears on KGSR's Broadcasts Vol. 13 album. Aaron Lewis also recorded a cover of the song as a duet with his daughter Zoe on his 2016 album Sinner.
The song is a tale about a shy, lonesome, young American soldier who strikes up a conversation and later a correspondence with a high school girl during the Vietnam War era. Americana details pervade the lyrics as the song details the correspondence as a relationship forms between the two, despite the insurmountable distance. The last letter from the soldier mentions that "it's gettin kinda rough over here" and he "won't be able to write for a while" before skipping ahead to a football game at the girl's high school. After the anthem and Lord's Prayer, the local Vietnam dead are announced. The soldier's name is on the list, but only the girl, who is there, recognizes his name, and she mourns for him as stated in the line "One name read and nobody really cared but a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair."
Kevin John Coyne, reviewing the song for Country Universe, rated the song No. 17 on his list of the 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade. He stated that "it's the story between the lines that drives home the tragedy, as both main characters have a palpable sense of loneliness that they finally find relief from in one another just before they are ripped permanently apart."
The song was being promoted by the Dixie Chicks when on March 10, 2003, lead singer Natalie Maines told a London, England, audience the band was ashamed that then United States President George W. Bush was from Texas. Subsequent U.S. publication of Maines's comments caused some stations, including 42 owned by Cumulus Media, to drop the song from their playlists, causing it to fall from No. 1 on the country singles chart to No. 3 the following week, March 29, before disappearing from the charts entirely.
"Travelin' Soldier" is the last single released by the Dixie Chicks to reach the top 20 on the country singles chart, although their 2007 single "Not Ready to Make Nice", peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 while reaching No. 36 on the country chart.
The song debut at No. 58 on Hot Country Songs on February 16, 2002, based on a live recording from the Country Music Association telecast in the previous November, eventually peaking at No. 57. It was not officially released as a single until late 2002, peaking at No. 1 on the same chart in early 2003.
Two days past eighteen
He was waiting for the bus in his army green
Sat down in a booth in a cafe there
Gave his order to a girl with a bow in her hair
He's a little shy so she gives him a smile
And he said, "Would you mind sittin' down for a while
And talking to me?
I'm feeling a little low."
She said, "I'm off in an hour and I know where we can go."
So they went down and they sat on the pier
He said I bet you got a boyfriend but I don't care
I got no one to send a letter to
Would you mind if I sent one back here to you
Never gonna hold the hand of another guy
Too young for him they told her
Waitin' for the love of a travelin' soldier
Our love will never end
Waitin' for the soldier to come back again
Never more to be alone when the letter said
A soldier's coming home
So the letters came from an army camp
In California then Vietnam
And he told her of his heart
It might be love and all of the things he was so scared of
He said, "When it's getting kinda rough over here,
I think of that day sittin' down at the pier.
And I close my eyes and see your pretty smile.
Don't worry but I won't be able to write for awhile."
One Friday night at a football game
The Lord's Prayer said and the Anthem sang
A man said, "Folks would you bow your heads
For a list of local Vietnam dead."
Crying all alone under the stands
Was a piccolo player in the marching band
And one name read but nobody really cared
But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair