Son of singing preacher-man finds time to rhyme
February 2, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - As the son of a preacher, Spc. Shanesel Dawson, a Shreveport, La., native, and the Nuclear Biological and Chemical noncommissioned officer in charge for 1083rd Transportation Company, 264th Combat Support Supply Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), out of Minden, La., grew up listening to his father sing the word of God.
Now, Dawson is the company's spiritual advisor and as an additional duty, Dawson works full-time as the company's mail orderly, a job he said he loves because it gives him the opportunity to visit with every Soldier as they pick up their mail.
The Rev. Wilbur Dawson, his father, was a gospel singer before he became a minister, and as a unique teaching tool he would incorporate lyrics from Christian songs into his sermons.
Prior to every convoy's departure on a hazardous mission, Dawson visits the motor pool to pray with the Soldiers. Instead of using lyrics from songs, Dawson writes rhyming poetry to get the message across to the Soldiers.
"It all started with a clichAfA rhyme that I created for a spiritual fitness lesson called Complain," said Dawson.
"Complain is just your frustration you're trying to explain, but don't let your energy drain; be positive and you will gain."
Dawson said Soldiers gave him positive feedback to the verse, pushing him in a direction to write longer verses. He attributes his talent for rhyming to his parents but draws his inspiration from God, he said. "God is the source of my creativity so for me to be creative I have to seek him," said Dawson.
"My mother loved learning and our house is like a library; she has books from around the world and I grew up reading those books. I have read several books on poetry and I enjoy studying them. It helps that my girlfriend Shantae has her Masters Degree in English. She likes to edit my poems and this is a gift from God, a divine unity of sorts," said Dawson. "I'm currently reading a book called "From 'Nam With Love" written by Lloyd A. King. He won the 2006 Gold Medal Award for best book of poetry from the Military Writers Society of America. Although he has a different style than I do, his poetry has inspired me to continue writing through the tough times."
When convoys leave out on Sundays, Dawson's spiritual fitness class substitutes for church and starts the mission off on a positive note, he said.
The Soldiers said they grew accustomed to Dawson's pre-convoy spiritual fitness prayers, his joyful attitude and all the goodies he hands out that he receives from AnySoldier.com.
"He is almost like a Santa Clause to us," said 1st Lt. Matthew J. Leblanc, 1083rd's Senior Platoon Leader. "His passages deal with strength, will and courage, and to receive his prayers before we leave gets us closer to God. His rhyming style engrains in us and we get it," replied Leblanc.
Following in his father's footsteps, Dawson was a seminary student at the Louisiana Baptist University in Shreveport, La., but had to leave for his tour of duty in Iraq, he said. Dawson also volunteered to serve for his third consecutive tour with the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team after the 1083rd demobilizes. Once the 256th IBCT is demobilized in 2011, he said he will return to the seminary.
Dawson spends most of his free time constructing his spiritual fitness lesson sermons, primarily on his own time after work or during the slow periods at the company post office, he explained.
"It's nothing that comes easy for me, but it's not for me, it's for the Soldiers. There are a lot of other ways to spend your spare time in Iraq and this is a positive thing that also helps me," said Dawson.
Every Sunday morning, Dawson teaches Sunday school and a devotional every Wednesday night. He is also the company's subject matter expert on warrior resiliency training.
"I get a lot of help from Capt. Myron Johnson, the 264th CSSB chaplain," said Dawson. "I work under Capt. Johnson as the lay-leader and I received his blessing to be our company spiritual advisor under his tutelage; he is also my mentor."
Dawson is also the assistant basketball coach for the 1083rd. "The experience I gain from doing this will help me when I become a Christian Life Coach," Dawson said.
At times Dawson feels overwhelmed by his responsibilities, but he follows his own advice from a rhyme he created to help others he said.
"Keep chopping and the tree will fall and you will be done in no time at all. But make sure your focus be more on the chop than the tree."
The award-winning poet, Lloyd King, sent a note to Dawson commenting on his poem "Grow."
"I shall forever keep in mind the ending comment in Spc. Dawson's poem, 'to be living and not growing is to be dead.' The impact of these words still whirls about in my mind like the vortex of a tornado.
"I remain amazed at the connection I sensed between Spc. Dawson's last words and the last words of a poem titled 'War' that defines the horrible, true meaning of what can and will happen in combat to those who don't 'grow'. This poem candidly states 'Kill ... kill ... or be not!' Spc. Dawson addresses the same seriousness about life and the seriousness of and the need for daily preparation that we must make whether civilian or Soldier in order to 'grow' in all aspects of life and living.
"Thank you Spc. Dawson for reminding me to awaken and reminding me to continue to 'Grow'," said King.