I am a classic rock fan. I grew up with a 30 minute drive to school during my formative music years 13-16 and listened to classic rock 94.7fm and 104.3 in Detroit each way. Then, when I got older I dove in to the deep cuts, so I know that there is a lot to choose from, tons of nuance.
Re this song, I was specifically targeting a Guess Who / Neil Young vibe. Which I suppose is a Canadien classic rock vibe. American Woman/Cinnamon Girl came to mind.
And why do I have to tell your mother anything if you make it back -- that's a nice reversal of the usual, "if I don't make it back." Good question. I think that the idea is he is changed. He's older now, has experienced things that changed him. Tell his mother about what he was like before the damage. We are all in a "war," so to speak. It's definitely not meant to be literal. Hence, the Merchant Marines :)
I look forward to seeing/hearing or reading your "hockey." Thank you VERY much for listening to mine.