Michael Luster has seen the images before.
Crowds lining small-town streets. People standing with their hands over their hearts. Flags fluttering in the wind.
But at the center of Luster’s newest song, “No One Knows How I Feel,” recorded under Luster & McCoy with fellow Springfieldian Elizabeth McCoy on vocals, is the pain of loss, particularly for families, loved ones and friends of fallen military members and first responders.
“The song could be (from the perspective of) a parent or a child. In my mind, I think of it as a young wife with young children,” said Luster, a retired staff sergeant with the Illinois State Police.
“As a police officer, I’ve been in these funeral motorcades. You see people with hands on their hearts and flags. It is moving, but I haven’t lost anyone. They’ve lost a son or a husband. People can pat them on their backs and say they’re a hero, but she’d like to have her husband back more than anything.
“(The wives) are the ones who have to pick up the pieces.”
Luster wrote the song as part of a seven-song CD titled “Run” recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, with some renowned session musicians. Luster is donating proceeds from downloads of the song from iTunes to organizations helping the families of fallen heroes, such as COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors), which assists families, friends and other survivors of officers killed in the line of duty.
Luster said “No One Knows How I Feel” is a composite of some of the funerals he saw during his career with the ISP. One of the more personal scenes came in 2007 when Luster rode in the motorcade of Trooper Brian McMillen, who was involved in a fatal crash with two vehicles after he had responded to a request by a local officer for assistance near Illiopolis.
McMillen also was a member of the Illinois Air National Guard serving as a tech sergeant with the 183rd Security Forces Squadron Fighter Wing and a graduate of the University of Illinois Springfield.
“I was in tears,” admitted Luster, after seeing the outpouring of support in McMillen’s hometown of Pana. “People are closer in small towns. Being a police officer, everyone is going to know who he is. Yeah, it hits hard.”
Several times, said Luster, he’s stood on the side of the highway with others, saluting military personnel who have been brought home to be laid to rest.
“I can’t even tell you their names,” Luster said. “But you do it for the (families) who are suffering.”
Luster also wrote songs for the country duo Wesley Warner, which had modest success locally. For the “Run” CD, Luster again worked with Tom Deglman, chief engineer and producer at DrcStudio in Springfield, laying out vocals and piano parts before going to Nashville.
There, Luster hired legendary guitarist and studio musician Kerry Marx, who has played with Johnny Cash, James Taylor, John Legend and Taylor Swift among others, in addition to being a staff guitarist at the Grand Ole Opry.
Marx put together a band that…