There’s no better way to honor a fallen guitarist than to shred.
After the death of legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen, who at 65 lost a battle with cancer on Oct. 6, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the web to share a live tribute in honor of the late musician on Facebook.
“I wanted to show my respect but mainly my emotions for what had happened,” West told Military Times in a text conversation.
Now, his video has over a million views and thousands of comments.
“It felt great but not for myself but for Eddie!” West said.
The fact that so many watched “showed how much love people had for him and what he’s done for music,” he added.
Many viewers were touched by what they saw and offered encouragement to West to keep Van Halen alive through his own guitar playing.
“If you pull the trigger on a gun that fast, you could win a war on your own,” wrote user Michael Mottram. “Awesome playing and cheers for your service fella.”
During the three-minute tribute, West covered some of Van Halen’s best-known works, including “Eruption."
West hopes that people enjoyed the music and feel inspired. The 26-year-old has been playing for 13 years, and did a tour with the U.S. Army Soldier Show in 2015, which stopped at 74 bases. He once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.
“We never rehearsed the song or played together, and it was done flawlessly in front of 10k people!” he noted.
Although he currently serves as an Army recruiter, West will soon be joining the Army music group “As You Were” for a three-year tour, WWNY reported.
“We have careers in which you can fulfill your dreams but always creates peace within our communities!” West said. “Music is the universal language.”
If he could send a message to the late Van Halen, West said it would be that he’s "inspired so many like myself and to ask if he’d like to rip up some tunes together!”
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.