This article was originally published in September 2011.
Many musicians have played for our men and women at arms. Not so many have actually trained and/or served in the military themselves. All That Remains vocalist Phil Labonte is one of the exceptions, having joined the Marines in 1993. After all, for him, being a solider was a family tradition: His father had served in the Air Force, his uncle had been in the military and both of his grandfathers fought in World War II.
"At that point, the idea of being in a successful band seemed about as likely as winning the lottery," Labonte says. "I was into really heavy, extreme music and I figured that even if we got signed, it would never pay the bills. So I decided why not serve my country like the rest of my family?"
The future frontman for All That Remains entered a 13-week basic training program. "You have to have a service mentality before you even think of joining the Marines," Labonte says. "If you're a 'me first' kind of guy, you wouldn't want to join because when you join the military, you're the least important person there is. As soon as you show up, dudes are yelling at you, and they're yelling at you for the next two-and-a-half months."
After Labonte finished basic training, he moved on to combat training in the School of Infantry. But there, he seriously injured his ankle and couldn't continue training, so his commanding officer sent him home with an honorary discharge. "At the time, President Clinton had made all kinds of cuts in the military," he explains, "so they just discharged anyone who had an injury with too long a recuperation period."
Having been released from duty, Labonte returned to his home in Massachusetts and restarted Perpetual Doom before joining Shadows Fall in 1995. He was replaced by Brian Fair in 2000 and formed All That Remains, who released their fifth album, …For We Are Many, last year.
Although Labonte's time in the service was short, the discipline he developed helped him focus as a vocalist and band leader. "Discipline is the most important thing for a serviceman," he says. "I can't stand when people say, 'Oh, you go into the military and they brainwash you.' No, they train you to react and listen because if your platoon commander tells you to do something, and you question his orders, people will die. It's not about brainwashing and they don't want robots. They want to make sure if you're ever in a combat situation, more people will survive than die."