“One Hell of an Amen”

Brantley Gilbert performs miracle song at Nutter

By Lisa Bennett

Photo: Brantley Gilbert performs Friday, Feb. 19 at Wright State’s Nutter Center; photo: James Minchin

There’s an old adage that says “We only grow in the dark.” It means simply, that the greatest challenges in life are there to teach us, test us and make us into the best possible version of ourselves we can be. For recording artist Brantley Gilbert, the deaths of those close to him translated to music that has earned him a platinum record and a chart-topping career. Originally from Jefferson, Georgia, the bad boy of country rock may be rough around the edges, but his heart shines in every song he writes.

His song “One Hell of an Amen” has one of the most beautiful, poignant and gut-wrenching stories behind it that any song has had. It’s about two men, Jon Lootens and Kory Potts, who lost their lives fighting like true heroes. Josh Greene is a close personal friend of Brantley Gilbert and has been since high school. When Greene got older, he joined the military and became close friends with Jonathan Lootens, another soldier in his platoon.

On Oct. 15, Lootens and Greene got into a minor argument. Lootens wasn’t supposed to go out on patrol that day, but when his crew got ready to leave the wire, Lootens grabbed his gun and headed out with them. Greene didn’t want him to go, but Lootens insisted saying, “Look, ya’ll are my family here. If you’re going out, I’m going out.” The two men argued about it, even as they took their positions. Lootens was a gunner on one humvee and Greene was behind him on another. As they moved out, an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) hit them and Lootens was killed. Greene stayed with him until help arrived and rode back to the wire with him. He’d never talked about it to anyone except Gilbert.

“When Jon passed, it really, really hit Josh [Greene] hard. For somebody so close to me to be affected that heavily, it really hit close to home,” recalls Gilbert, adding, “I’d never been that close to PTSD.”

After the song was released and the family sent the pictures for the music video, Gilbert had a get-together at his house. Greene was there, looking at the schedule. Gilbert told him that Lootens’ mom and sister were going to the show. Greene had never met them face-to-face.

“He asked me, he said, ‘Man, I know you’re really busy, but is there any way maybe I can go to that one?’ I said, ‘Of course,’” Gilbert remembers.

Greene got on the bus with Gilbert and his wife and rode up to the show with them. What happened next was an unbelievable gift that they would all remember for the rest of their lives.

“When I brought Jon [Lootens]’s sister and mother onto the bus, I introduced them to my wife, then I said, ‘And this fella right here—he was standing behind me—his name is Josh Greene,’ and it didn’t hit them at first,” Gilbert recalls.

But after a moment, the two women realized just who Greene was and the entire crew burst into tears. It was a bittersweet moment and one that would bring deep healing to Greene, Lootens’ mother and his sister. Greene had blamed himself for Lootens’ death, and Jon’s mother had worried for years that her son had died alone. Greene was able to reassure her that someone was with Lootens the entire time until he was gone.

“As the conversation went on, she comforted Josh and reaffirmed that it wasn’t his fault,” Gilbert says.

The song was Gilbert’s way of giving thanks to a fallen hero: “For a man who sacrificed his life for his country and for my best friend, it was as grand a gesture as I could make, but you know it still doesn’t really cut it.”

A warrior’s attitude.

The second man in the song, Kory Potts, was another very close friend of Gilbert’s. “[Potts] was just that kid that you love being around,” he says.

In his early 20s, Potts was diagnosed with cancer. “When the doctor walked in the room and diagnosed him, Kory literally looked him dead in the eye and said, ‘Alright, bring it on,’” Gilbert says.

“Bring it on” became his battle slogan throughout his entire fight with the disease.

“To see a young man four years younger than me have such a warrior’s attitude, that to me was one of the most admirable things I’ve ever seen,” Gilbert says.

Though he didn’t plan it, the song has brought healing not to just the families of Lootens and Potts but to many thousands of people around the world.

“We heard story after story about how the song helped heal,” Gilbert says, adding, “It was an honor to be able to write a song about two men like that.” “One Hell of an Amen” has truly become a miracle.

Brantley Gilbert performs Friday, Feb. 19 at Wright State’s Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway in Dayton. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $31.75-$36.75. For tickets and more information, please visit brantleygilbert.com or call 937.775.3498.

Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at LisaBennett@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

 

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Lisa Bennett
Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at LisaBennett@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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