Artists Team Up To Create CD To Thank The Troops

November 16, 2007

So many times today, we see splashed across our television sets, about this or that celebrity who denounces the War on Terrorism and the mission that our Troops our doing. So it’s refreshing for me to find out that at least some of the celebrities don’t follow the lead of the crowd and think for themselves. The artists that I’m about to tell you about, should be applauded for their efforts and their willingness to participate in this project.

Today, it was announced by America Supports You that 13 major recording artists have joined forces to create a musical “Thank You” for the Troops. Entitled “CD for the Troops” this CD will be available to anyone who has a valid military ID to download off of the internet at AAFES starting tomorrow.

“we’re thankful to all the artists who have agreed to lend their name and talent to this special CD,” said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and community liason. “To have ‘CD for the Troops’ produced and dedicated in special honor to our active-duty military members and veterans is just another demonstration of the support so many people in our nation have for our Troops.”

One artist, John Ondrasik, singer and songwriter for the group ‘Five For Fighting’ was the driving force behind making sure that the project came to reality. Artists who performed on the CD are, Billy Joel, Brooks & Dunn, The Goo Goo Dolls, Jewel, Josh Groban, Los Lonely Boys, Melissa Ethridge, The Neville Brothers, Sarah McLachlan, The Lt. Dan Band, Montgomery Gentry, The Fray and Five For Fighting. Ondrasik was the leading force on the CD, after he was asked to write a forward and contribute a song to a CD that was a compilation of local bands sending music to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I thought the idea was a wonderful gesture,” said Ondrasik, explaining his belief that music is a unique medium that can affect morale and mental health. “I started making a few calls to friends of mine, and six months later, we have the CD for the Troops.”

Ondrasik is a very loyal and staunch supporter of our Troops and says that he’s grateful for the sacrifices that they make. According to Ondrasik, he knows that the sacrifices made by the men and women who wear this nation’s uniform, have ensured his family’s liberty and allowed him to be able to pursue music as a profession.

“Let’s be honest, there would be no songs of consequence without the Soldiers who allow us a voice,” he said. “I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I think it’s important to recognize that artists from across the political spectrum came together to make this gesture of appreciation and thanks to our Troops.”

The hopes are that the free downloads for the Troops will be available on the AAFES website will be available through April, more tangible forms of the CD will soon be making their way over to the Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Working with Operation Give and Operation Shoebox, over 50,000 actual CD’s will be put into holiday packages and shipped to the Troops. According to Ondrasik though, regardless of how the Troops hear the music, he has hopes that the songs will inspire, motivate and provide them with avenues for reflection or perhaps even a simple distraction from the warzone for a few minutes.

“If anything, let each tune be a small piece of home to carry you forward,” he said. “Thank you for all you do, and feel free to shoot me an email with requests for ‘CD for the Troops II.’”

To say that I’m very impressed and pleased with what these artists have done, would be putting it mildly. I have hopes, that what they’ve accomplished, will inspire other artists and performers to do something similar.


Honoring Our Troops & Veterans Through Song … “Where Freedom Flies” by Diana Nagy

November 7, 2007

With Sunday being Veteran’s Day, I’m honored to be able to introduce our readers to a wonderful artist, who pays tribute to the men and women currently serving and those who have served in the past, through a powerful song called “Where Freedom Flies.”

I originally came across Diana Nagy’s music on Move America Forward, when I received an email from them following their last Troop Support Rally across the country. When I listened to the song, I knew that Diana had a powerful message to share with our country, about her love and support of our Troops and our Veterans. So, I contacted Diana and arranged to speak with her on the phone, Monday afternoon.

The lyrics for :”Where Freedom Flies” were written by Diana’s mother. Diana shared that her mother and been watching the news and saw a report of anti-war protestors burning the US Flag. Needless to say, Diana’s mother was extremely upset by this horrible display, that was splashed across her television set. After she went to bed that night, she couldn’t sleep, thinking about what she had seen, so around 3am she got up and put into words what she was feeling about what she had witnessed. The next day, she called Diana and told her about the song. Upon reading the lyrics, Diana said that she got chills and was moved to tears by the powerful words that her mother had written. She felt that it needed to be put to music and began the process of arranging the lyrics and music.

Diana shared that she and her family have always been very patriotic and have always stood behind our Troops and our Country. At the time that she recorded “Where Freedom Flies”, she wasn’t sure where it was going to go or what the impact of the song would be. She stressed that she and her mother wanted the song to be a tribute to our Troops and our country, without any political platform.

Diana supports several military related charities with the proceeds from her song. “Where Freedom Flies” has been chosen as the theme song of Move America Forward, who organize several Pro-Troop, Pro-Mission rallies across the Country. Their most recent project is to provide Christmas Baskets for the Troops. People wishing to help with this effort can purchase one of Diana’s CD’s and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to help with this project. You can also purchase the CD and ask that it be added to one of the Christmas baskets that Move America Forward will be sending to the Troops. Move America Forward will be holding a “Honoring Heroes at the Holidays Tour” from November 26th through December 16th starting in California, across the Southern part of the US and up the East Coast, ending on December 16th for a special Pro-Troop Rally at the World Trade Center grounds. Diana will be accompanying them on the tour and performing at the stops they make.

Another organization that Diana supports is Sentinels of Freedom, who has also chosen “Where Freedom Flies” as their theme song. Sentinels of Freedom was founded by Mike Conklin, of Danville, California. Diana was really excited about the work with our Wounded Warriors that Sentinels of Freedom is doing. From the website of Sentinels of Freedom, I would like to share how the program was started.

The father of three Army Rangers, Mike Conklin from Danville, Calif., was inspired to reach out to severely injured veterans after one of his sons was wounded in Iraq in 2003.
Impressed by the level of care his son received in military hospitals, and wanting to do something tangible to support U.S. troops, Mike created the nonprofit Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation sm. The four-year program is meant for veterans with severe service-related injuries who have the aptitude, attitude, and drive to become independent and successful members of society. Scholarship recipients are called “Sentinels” in honor of their sacrifice and commitment to guarding America’s freedomThe First Sentinel.

With the help of Mike’s close friends and business associates, the first volunteer team formed and the program came together just in time for Spc. Jake Brown’s return to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004.

Jake was crushed by a tank while he served in Germany in 2003. After 26 surgeries and nearly a year of rehabilitation, he was welcomed home and introduced to the Sentinels support system, made up of local leaders, area businesses and community groups.

Preparing for Jake’s arrival united a community, and Mike realized the efforts didn’t have to stop with one soldier in one area of the country.

Now others have joined Jake in the program. All are service members who needed a fresh start. They are flourishing because teams of volunteers found the room in their communities and accepted a role in helping these wounded warriors regain their independence.

Sentinels of Freedom is committed to helping communities across the United States support as many of these men and women as possible. One Sentinel, one victory at a time.

The Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation is an IRS Approved 501( C ) 3 Non-Profit Foundation.

Starting out initially as a program in just the state of California, Mike is working hard to expand the program nationwide. Their Creed and Promise to our Warriors, says a lot of what they’re attempting to accomplish to help make the lives of our Wounded Warriors easier. I think the work that Mike’s doing is fantastic and I can see why Diana’s so excited about Sentinels of Freedom.

But Move America Forward and Sentinels of Freedom aren’t the only Military Charities that Diana takes part in. Diana is also active in providing assistance and donations to Blue Star Moms of America and Gold Star Families. According to Diana, each time she works with Gold Star Families, she walks away with life changing experiences each time that she performs at one of their events.

Diana has been involved with music, her entire life, performing in talent shows, choir and other musical avenues growing up. Later, Diana became involved in modeling, though she still managed to make music a part of her life, by hanging out with friends who are performers. Diana said that she was amazed how their music tended to light up a room and she wanted to be able to touch people’s hearts and lives in that manner. So, using the gift for music that she has, Diana decided to give up modeling and work on her music.

Through her song, “Where Freedom Flies”, it is Diana’s hope that she can show the love and support that she has for our Troops and our Country.

“I just want to be able to give back, to reach out and touch everyone that I possibly can and remind people of the patriotic spirit of our country,” Diana said.

“Where Freedom Flies” is the first single to be released from Diana’s album, which is due to be released on November 26th.

Diana Nagy is an incredibly talented performer and better yet, one who is willing to give back to the men and women who make it possible for each of us to follow our dreams in this country, the men and women who have served and are currently serving in our Country’s Armed Forces. Without them and the sacrifices that they’ve made and continue to make, we as American’s wouldn’t have the freedom to chose our paths in life, that we do.

I’d like to share my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Diana Nagy and her mother for the beautiful tribute to our Troops and our Veterans. I’d also like to extend my thanks to Diana for being willing to help our Troops and Veterans by her dedication and willingness to contribute a portion of the proceeds from “Where Freedom Flies” to military and veteran charities. Please take some time out of your busy day to visit Diana’s site and the sites of the organizations that I have linked below and find out about their projects.

Diana Nagy website

Gold Star Families

Move America Forward

Sentinels Of Freedom

Blue Star Mothers Of America

Where Freedom Flies by Diana Nagy

Soldier Hard’s Appearance At Fort Hood

October 1, 2007

I Caught Him Smiling There

Back in July, I posted an interview with Soldier Hard who’s song, Walk With Me appears on volume 1 of To The Fallen Records. Saturday, myself and Haole went to Fort Hood PX, for the afternoon, as we heard that Soldier Hard would be appearing, and in fact, he was! It was great to meet Soldier Hard and his 4 fellow Soldiers who accompanied him that day. Haole and I stayed around throughout Soldier Hard’s autograph signing and then had the pleasure of treating him and his fellow Soldiers to an early dinner at the Food Court there in the PX complex.

He caught me taking pictures and posed

I was pretty impressed with Soldier Hard’s demeanor and professionalism. He went out of his way to take time to visit with his fan and explain about his Deployment Album which he had for sale there, as well as how he came about appearing on the To The Fallen Records Volume 1. Soldier Hard is a very down to earth young man, who’s not only a Soldier but a fantastic performer as well. I’m going to embed a video that the guys took at the PX on Saturday. For some reason, I ended up being in WAY too many of the shots. LOL! I’ll also add some of the pictures that I took that day as well. If you get the opportunity to attend any of Soldier Hard’s shows or an autograph session, please do so. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Please take some time to visit the official Soldier Hard My Space Page.

Soldier Hard & his fellow Soldiers & friends

FT Hood TX PX Signing!!!!
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Thanks To The Brave by J.D. Danner

September 22, 2007

Back in April, I did a story about a wonderful recording artist from Florida, J.D. Danner, who had written and performed the song, The Reason I Breathe, in support of our Troops and their families. A few days later, I put together a video and posted it. JD has once again came out with a sure-fire HIT that supports our Troops. I think you’ll all agree that not only does JD have talent but it’s obvious that she’s supportive of our Troops.

Awhile back, JD emailed me with information about her new release, Thanks To The Brave, which I’ll share with you here:

I have attached an MP3 of my new song titled, “Thanks For The Brave” - I
hope you like it! It is already posted on Army Wife Talk Radio and it will be featured on their show on Sept. 6th. I am going to officially release the single in Sept. for purchase as a digital download and as a single from my website. I will also put it out on MySpace for people to listen to… We are currently working on getting distribution for the single and eventually the full CD for retail stores and radio play.

For those of you anywhere near Fort Hood, JD will be here on October 4th. She’s coming to perform her song about Domestic Violence, Shelter From The Shame, for the Senior Commanders and Senior NCO’s at the official Fort Hood kick off to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as well as play the video that has been made, which gives the song so much impact. JD will then perform again for several trainings before she goes to the Clear Creek PX to do a mini-concert and CD signing around Noon, or shortly thereafter. If you’re in the Fort Hood area, PLEASE make it a point to come on post that day, listen to JD perform, purchase one of her CD’s and get her autograph. My official duties that day will be to shadow JD all day as she makes her way around Fort Hood for her various performances that day.

I can’t say enough good things about JD and the work she does in support of our Troops, as well as her work for Domestic Violence Awareness. She’s got awesome talent and I’m looking forward to finally meeting JD in person on October 4th. Come join us, if you get the opportunity. Until then, please take a few moments to visit JD’s two websites and check out the other music this fantastic artist has to offer.

Thanks To The Brave by JD Danner

JD Danner Official Website

Rocker Gene Simmons Honors Our Troops And Our Country

September 7, 2007

I’ve always been a fan of the rock band Kiss, with or without their make-up. In 1999, I had the pleasure of seeing Kiss, Ted Nugent and Skid Row perform in Wichita, Ks during Kiss’ farewell tour. Kiss does an awesome rendition of Stars Spangled Banner. I ran across this video of Gene Simmons honoring our Troops and our Country and wanted to share it with everyone here. I know that not everyone is a Kiss fan or a fan of Rock & Roll, but I always love it when the big names in the music industry take time out of their schedules to honor our Troops. Enjoy!

The Hell With “Politically Correct,” He Tells It Like He Sees It

August 26, 2007

Some celebrities aren’t afraid to show their support for the Troops. Some are more outspoken about it than others. Ted Nugent is one, who isn’t afraid to say what he thinks. Ted always has something to say about current events, especially when it comes to defending this country. Ted is a huge supporter of the Troops. He’s toured Iraq and Afghanistan several times with Toby Keith and is outspoken in his support and respect for the Troops. He and his wife Shemane have started a non-profit organization called Freedom’s Angels Foundation, which provides support to our Wounded Warriors. The foundation is headed by Ted’s wife Shemane. I highlighted Freedom’s Angels Foundation in this post on March 18th.

Behind Ted at any given concert is a huge American flag. Ted’s proud to be an American and is a huge advocate of our Military and our Country. Ted is currently out on tour, promoting his newest album Love Grenade, which is due out in stores around September 4th. In the following videos, Ted speaks about his new album and tour, as well as his thoughts about the Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, illegal immigration and the war in general. As usual, Ted is in your face, up-front and very matter-of-fact about what he believes and he’s not worried about being politically correct. I’ve said before, that someone like Ted Nugent and Toby Keith in the White House would do wonders for this Country. Some of you might think I’m joking when I say that, but honestly, I think that’s what this Country needs. Love Grenade can be preorderd by visiting Ted’s website, where, if you pre-order a copy, you’ll have the chance to get a copy of the limited edition album artwork signed by Ted himself. I’ve pre-ordered my copy.

Why They Do What They Do … I-Beam 93 by Tony Diana

August 24, 2007

Back in March, I posted this story about Tony Diana, former US Army Lt, singer and songwriter. Tony has once again, hit it right on the head. Any of you who’ve read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, remembers Marcus talking about carrying a picture of the World Trade Towers in his pocket, as motivation and a reminder of why he was fighting for our country. This video says it so eloquently. This is the reason, for so many of our Warriors, why they do, what they do. Without further delay, I-Beam 93. Thank You Tony!

I Beam 93 scored by Chance

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Rush ‘Em/Military T.H.U.G.S. by J DiMarco

August 19, 2007

Once again, I am blown away by the extreme musical talent that seems to permeate this country’s Armed Forces. When we began the Tunes For The Troops section of the blog, I was constantly awed at the performers who are serving in our Armed Forces and the way these performers poured their hearts and soul into the songs that they wrote and sang. Here’s the next in the series of interviews with the artists who were featured on To The Fallen Records, Volume 1 Today we’re featuring J DiMarco, a US Navy Veteran and his song Rush ‘Em/Military T.H.U.G.S.

I first asked J DiMarco for some background information about himself. His roots, his involvement with music and his military service.

My real name is Ashoka Jangdhari, I am Trinidadian born and raised in Harrisburg, PA. In high school I was in NJROTC, and I went onto the navy at 18 yrs old in 1990. I was in both Middle Eastern campaigns, Desert Storm/Shield. I started my career in music writing poems and then converting them into songs. Met up with four other sailors that had a passion for music as I did, and we formed a r&b group called “E’sence”. This gave me the taste of wanting to become a professional entertainer. I wrote a song called “Steamy” and co-wrote another called “Remember M.E.” The group lasted a year and I went solo. I honorably discharged from the Navy in 1995. After discharging I went back to Harrisburg for five years. There, I worked odd jobs and seriously started my musical career. I dabbled in rap and found it was more natural for me and easier than singing so I focused more in honing my skills in song writing and rap. I hooked up with a guy name Don Urrutia and we started rapping everyday all day. We started a rap group called “Gravelground” and recorded our first records on TDK and Maxell tapes on a karaoke machine. The album was called “The Money Bin”. I recorded my first solo album called “Unsigned Hyped” which was my most requested album to date. It has hits like “Grown Man”, “ They Don’t Know”, and the “Freestyle” track From there I went solo and worked on solo projects which landed me an interview with platinum recording artist Larry “Jazz” Anthony from Dru-Hill. Because of my distinct vocal delivery of rapper and mogul Jay-Z, marketing my sound wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Since I didn’t have a college degree and no one wanted to take a chance on signing me. I went back into the Navy in 2001. My first duty station upon returning back into the military was LaMaddelena, Italy, a tiny island off of the island of Sardinia. There I built my fan base and recorded a mixtape (or mix CD now) called “Live from LaMaddelna”. It is a CD which has 10 tracks of freestyles and interviews (recording and produced on the ship in the berthing area) with guys off my ship (USS Emory S. Land AS 42). The Navy gave me the opportunity to perform in Turkey (The Green House Night Club), Suda Bay Crete, Gaeta, Italy, Dubrovnik, Croatia, Hawaii, Philapeans, Virginia, and San Diego, CA. After being back in the Navy for two month, music that I did which circulated in my home town barbershops caught the ear of Sean “Puffy” Combs and producers Mega Hertz production. Members from the production company tracked me down in Italy and wanted to find out what my status was in the military. After various conversations with Mega Hertz, they felt my naval commitment would prevent me from a music career. I transferred to Hawaii, and release in November 2005 my last CD “Sea Stories/ The Beginning”.

As always, I’m curious about the driving force behind the men and women who are or have served in our nation’s military. What made them decide to enlist and serve the country in such a profession.

I wanted to leave Harrisburg, Pa. I wanted to travel and see the world, experience new things and grow professionally and personally. I started out in NJROTC so it was obvious choice for me to join the Navy.

Of course along with that, it’s always nice to know what division they serve or served in and what job they performed. This always tends to give me a feel for the artist as a person. J DiMarco is a multi-talented man, which is obvious from his MOS while he served in the Navy, as a Illustrator Draftsman, where he served under two different admirals as well as on a ship repair division.

J has been involved with listening, singing and writing music for many years. He fondly remembers listening to his first rap song, The Sugar Hill Gang and imitating Michael Jackson, and New Edition, LL Cool J, and Rakim. He shared that he listened to all of the rap music he could find. Today his musical taste is varied, listening to a lot of Neo-Soul and Jazz, and from time to time working with R & B artists.

J DiMarco’s song, Rush ‘Em/Military T.H.U.G.S. is the 3rd song listed on the To The Fallen Records CD. I asked him how that song came about, basically the history of the song.

Rush ‘Em/ Mitlitary Thugs was a song that incorporates all the branches in the U.S. it talks about the camaraderie, the parties, death, and how the U.S. Armed force is a stronger fraternal organization than any collegic or external group. The word T.H.U.G.S. is an acronym for “Together, Honor Under Government Service”.

I next asked what he purpose was for beginning to write and record his own music. How he felt that by doing so, might help to cope with various situations in life that a person might face.

It’s a gift, if you have it you have. What amazes me is that I can write in any genre. I have the ability to perform my lyric and not hire a demo singer to convey on record what I am creating. It’s therapeutic and refreshing. I get excited when I hear myself on record, or the rhymes I come up with, or the hooks that are catchy.

Currently, J DiMarco no longer serves in the Navy but works at T-Mobile corporate as a account executive.

I work in the business channel so if anyone out there have a need for cellular services for your business (blackberry’s, sidekicks, ect) I’m your man!

Initially J had thoughts of making service in the Navy into a career. Do to situations that sometimes happen, he got out of the Navy after completing college at American InterContiental University. He has now made the choice to excel outside of the Navy. To be successful in whatever he does. While he would love to have a career in the music industry as a songwriter or A&R, but he’s not focused on chasing that dream but, instead more focused on doing well at T-Mobile. It’s a great career and he’s able to sell phones to music industry professionals.

When I asked him what message he was trying to convey with his music, J said that some songs are metaphoric in relation to the messages being conveyed, others are club songs. He goal is to write songs that have a message and make an impact on people without being overly preachy. To carry this one step further, I asked what message he hoped that military personnel would carry with them after hearing his song.

That we are one, it doesn’t matter what branch you’re in, we are one fraternity.

J DiMarco is a well experienced performer, having performed over a hundred times in public to crowds numbering from 5 to 3,000 people. He’s been successful in his musical ventures, having recorded three CD’s his career; “Unsign Hype” (2001), “Live From LaMadelena” (2002), and “Sea Stories/The Beginning” (2005). He also has a catalog of numerous other songs as well.

I was very interested in J’s take on the music that’s coming out of the Warzones both in Afghanistan and Iraq. How he feels this helps the Troops to cope with the extreme situations they’re confronted with in these places.

Music is a therapeutic release for some of us, and now that technology can bring a recording studio to a common computer, you’ll hear more and more records being produced in the underground music scene.

I asked J if he felt the Troops were making a difference in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the discouraging reports in the media. I asked him as well, if he thought the negative media attention affected the morale of the Troops, who are in the fight day after day.

Yes I do, but we need to be out of there now. The troops are worn, and they need to be home with there families. It’s becoming redundant now, the efforts are to be applauded but lets bring’em home now. I believe it does, it makes them feel that their efforts are in vain.

J DiMarco found To The Fallen Records quite by chance. He had seen an article called Voice From The Frontlines and decided to send them an email and include a copy of Rush ‘Em/Military T.H.U.G.S. They loved it and offered him the opportunity to have his song featured on their first CD. J further said that he would like to write or co-write with any upcoming artist, it doesn’t matter the genre. I currently do music as a hobby and recreation. If you’re interested in hearing more music by this extremely talented musician, J DiMarco, or perhaps collaborating musically with him, feel free to visit his page and find out more about him.

Rush ‘Em/Military T.H.U.G.S. by J. DiMarco

“Shed A Tear” by Keise Twerkha

July 29, 2007

This is the second of interviews that I’ll be doing with all of the artists/servicemembers whose music is featured on To The Fallen Records Volume 1.

Keise Twerkha is a Specialist who is serving in the US Army. He stumbled across To The Fallen Records, quite by accident. He shared being in the PX and buying a newspaper, which is one of the few times that he’s done so. He was reading about a group who was trying to film Soldiers who were deploying or were deployed and how they came about making music. He contacted them and apparently they passed his information on to Sean and Sidney, and the rest is history.

As a young child of 2 years old Keise lost his mother. He was her only child. Keise was raised by his grandmother in Violet, Lousiana. Keise has a sister on his father’s side of the family, whom he just recently met and who has become his best friend as well as his sister. He’s also the proud father of two sons.

In 2000 Keise found out that he was going to become a father, for the first time. At the time he was living from day to day, barely able to take care of himself. So he joined the Army, as he felt strongly that he needed to take steps in a positive direction in order to support his child. At this point in his life, Keise’s plan is to make a career of the Military. He’s fully aware that the music industry is very tricky and that many performers never make it big. As a father, it’s very important to him to make sure that he’s able to provide for his children they way that they deserve. Keise is currently serving at Camp Taji, Iraq as a Radio Electronics Repairman (94E).

Music has always had a great influence in Keise’s life. When he was a child he performed in choir and would record his own songs with his uncle’s stereo playing the beat. He remembers holding his tape recorder in his hand and thinking at the time, That it was the hottest thing. After joining the Army, he joined a group called the Big Rigga Crew. The name was derived from the fact that they were driving 5 ton trucks a lot. The Big Rigga Crew recorded their only CD, before they each went their separate ways, as Army life tends to cause happen. To this day, Keise still has a copy of the CD that Big Rigga Crew recorded. From those early days, Keise has grown as an artist. Initially, when Keise began writing and performing, he had dreams of making it rich. His thoughts about music have evolved, as has his music. His purpose now is to tell the story of his life and allow others to know what it felt like for him growing up and his experiences since then. He recalls hearing so many songs that describe his feelings and he wanted to be able to let others relate to his music like he has to the songs that have meaning in his life. He hopes that his music will bring smiles and happiness to others, to be able to touch every emotion that a person might feel. His music is his life, everything he wrote and rapped about, he’s done. Music is his outlet, his way of coping with emotions and dealing with the situations that life has a way of throwing at us.

I asked Keise to give me some background on his song “Shed A Tear.” Keise said that the song was written while he was attending Primary Leadership Development Course (PDLC). He shared that he was at a point in his life where he didn’t feel that there was much that was going right in his life… he was at rock bottom, depressed, drinking to drown his sorrows. He didn’t feel loved, he felt the Army was out to get him killed, he was disappointed when he found out his childhood friends wasn’t the person he thought he was, struggling with losing his mother at such a young age and not really having worked through the emotions he felt because of losing his mother. While attending PDLC, he found out he was about to be deployed for the first time. So, he put eveything he was feeling and dealing with down on paper and it eventually evolved into “Shed A Tear.”

Keise currently has several songs that he has written and recorded and has a mixtape out right now. It’s not in any stores but can be obtained through his myspace page, if anyone is interested. He has plans to eventually release a CD of his music, however due to deployments and other things in his life, the process has been slow. His plans are that regardless of what he’s doing, whether that be growing a garden, performing music or continuing his career in the Army that he be successful and ensure that his sons have everything that they need and desire. He’d like to someday own his own recording label and is currently researching that option.

I asked Keise what message he would like for American’s to take from his music.

“I want them to know that even soldiers go through hardships, and the fact that we have to defend the country just adds to the regular stresses that they would have. But I have to try my hardest to stay focused at what’s at hand.”

Keise also has a message that he would hope his fellow Soldiers would get from his music.

“Even though sometimes you want to give up, you gotta look inside yourself for strength. Adversity is there to make us stronger. When all else fails, leave it in higher hands. It doesn’t matter the religion.”

Keise feels that music is very important to the troops, especially during wartime. He feels that it allows the Troops to get a slice of home whenever they hear a song that touches them. It allows them to escape for those few moments that they’re listening to a song.

We discussed the negative news that tends to be released by the media, though much good is occurring. Keise feels very strongly that our Troops are making a difference in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and had this to say about what he would like to tell the media is this:

“Yes we are making a difference. All the local nationals are NOT out to get us. I have personally shared laughs and talks with them. I have been both to Iraq and Afghanistan and we are definitely making a difference in both places. Even though the media shows what they want, to get a good story. It’s politics!!!!”

“Come here and see for yourself. Get out of your little cubical and put some boots on for at least 30 days and you’ll see that it’s not all just IED’s, bombings and things like that. We are taking injured locals to receive medical attention at our bases. We are doing all sorts of things so that the troops can feel like home on holidays. Just come and live in the boots of a Soldier for a few months.”

Keise feels that all of the negative press, the political fighting and protests isn’t so hard on himself, but it does make it hard on families, on his children. His thought is that he knows he’ll be going where the Army sends him. He does feel that the Army life is hard on families. For example, his children become accustomed to having him home and then he’s sent somewhere, whether it’s to attend a school somewhere or on a deployment.

Keise asks that those who are interested, to please contact him through his MySpace page. There you will find more information about what is going on with his music. His hopes are to get his music out to as many people as possible, even if it’s only one person at a time. So, take some time and stop by the page of this talented young Soldier and find out more about him.

“All my songs have the message of my life and how I live it. So it’s all real.”

“Shed A Tear” by Keise Twerka

Honoring Fallen Comrades Through His Music … Josh Revak

July 21, 2007

Thanks again to Sue, I had the opportunity to speak on the phone with an incredible young Soldier and musician who’s earned a special place in my heart. Currently Josh is still active duty in the Army but will be soon medically retired, due to injuries he sustained in Iraq.

Music has always played a large part in the life of Josh Revak. Josh grew up an only child, who was homeschooled, so he wasn’t exposed to a lot of friends as he grew up. Music was a companion and friend to Josh. Something he could immerse himself into, regardless of his mood or what was going on in his life. Josh shared that he wrote music when he was young but going to Iraq motivated him to write and perform some of the best music he’s written.

Josh shared of rewriting his unit song (he’s a member of 1st Battalion, 37th Armor, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division) with his best friend and mentor 1SG Aaron Jagger. shortly before deploying to Iraq. The re-written version of the unit song, became so popular in the unit that it was played daily before battle updates in Iraq and is used to lead off battalion functions. While in Iraq, Jagger and Josh became well known for the songs they wrote and performed in honor of their fallen comrades. They performed on a regular basis at memorial ceremonies for fallen Soldiers. Josh shared that many of the memorial services they performed at were for close friends. After the first time, they were asked to perform again. He shared that he and Jagger felt that it couldn’t be any more difficult than it already had been for them and agreed to do so.

Performing at memorial services continued until Josh was halfway through his second tour in Iraq, when he was injured when a 120 mm mortar fell close to where he was standing in Ramadi. His roommate, Sgt Terry Lisk, unfortunately took the brunt of the blast and died from his injuries. Josh, who had severe injuries to his right foot and ankle was medically evacuated to Germany. A short time after Josh was injured and medically evacuated to Germany, he received devastating news. News that made him consider leaving his music behind. He was told that his best friend, the man who took him under his wing and helped him through his initial struggle in the Army, 1SG Aaron Jagger and two other soldiers were killed in by a roadside bomb in Ramadi. Josh, understandably was devastated to lose this special person in his life. The man who took him under his wing in Germany, when he was struggling with Army life, guided him in his career, treated him like a son and taught him to play guitar.

Josh is now back home in Minnesota and in the process of being medically retired from the Army. Josh has continued his dream of one day completing an album. This album In The Hours Of Darkness is a musical story of his deployment. A story of the pain of losing his friends, some who were like brothers to him. He said that you can hear 1SG Jagger’s fantastic guitar work, as many of the songs were recorded in Iraq. Josh feels that 1SG Jagger would have wanted him to complete the album. One song on the album, entitled simply The Song is dedicated to his best friend and mentor, 1SG Aaron Jagger. Josh played this song at 1SG Jagger’s memorial service. That had to be one of the most difficult memorial services that Josh ever did. Josh asked me to share that song, with our readers.

“The Song” by Josh Revak

Today, the future for Josh is unsure. He’s been offered a job with the DAV, but he’s also looking into attending college and perhaps going into Audio Production. Josh shared that he felt he could be really passionate about working for the DAV, helping disabled veterans such as himself. Josh will soon be traveling to Rhode Island to meet up with Sean and Sidney from To The Fallen Records and remix his song, Empty Boots for an upcoming To The Fallen Records CD. Josh is excited about this opportunity.

I asked Josh what he hoped that American citizens, listening to his album would get from it. Here’s what Josh had to say.

“The truth and experiences we had. The loss. No matter who you work for or where you’re at, we’re all going to die. That’s just the reality of it. So many things are there to distract people from the true meaning of life. Take the time to search for the meaning of life and before it’s too late.”

Josh had an even more powerful message that he hopes that other soldiers will get from his music.

“Take the chance and figure it out. When we played at memorials, no one cried, no one mourned. They need to do that. Mourn your losses. Don’t be ashamed to cry and mourn.”

Josh and I talked about some of the musical influences throughout his life. His taste and variety is music is varied, from feel good, oldies Rock and Roll, to music by Bob Dylan, Christian music, Rolling Stones, Eddie Vetter, Billy Joel, and Sound Garden. His absolute favorite musician and probably his biggest influence is Keith Green a pianist who died in a plane crash in 1982.

One last thing Josh wanted to leave with our readers is this:

“There is a plan and a purpose in life and there’s someone greater than yourself who is in control. My purpose is to help people cry, mourn and to heal.

Josh has been featured twice in Stars and Stripes newspaper. Please take the time to read those articles, which you can find here and here and learn even more about this very talented and inspirational young soldier. Also, please take some time to visit Josh’s page, where you can also purchase his CD, In The Hours Of Darkness.

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