Warrior Spirit Band motivates, inspires wounded warriors
October 25, 2010
- Band on a personal mission to empower disabled, combat wounded veterans
- Nationwide tour kicks off at Fort Polk
FORT POLK, La. -- Musical notes are nothing but sound until someone takes the time to string them together. The resulting music, paired with lyrics, can communicate powerful ideas. But that message is nothing but noise without a purpose.
That's what the Warrior Spirit Band does. They take their experiences as Soldiers and infuse their songs with the emotions of those who have been to war, were wounded and come home to overcome those obstacles and move on with their lives.
The band began their personal mission to empower disabled and combat wounded veterans with a tour of Warrior Transition Units that kicked off at Fort Polk Oct. 15.
They want to sing for and share their stories with other wounded warriors across the nation. Paul Delacerda, founder and drummer for the Warrior Spirit Band, said he and the other members have prevailed over major disabilities to play and have made a commitment to honor wounded warriors that have sacrificed for this country. "There were a couple of dates that had to be rescheduled so this was our first stop. Fort Polk is an excellent post. It's been awesome and the people are great," said Delacerda.
When this retired staff sergeant was in the infantry, his job was to look for improvised explosive devices in Iraq. "I got exposed to a blast and have issues just like these guys -- we all have issues we're dealing with and trying to overcome. I think in the overall aspect of things, music is a great way to deal with the challenges we face," said Delacerda.
Another member of the band is vocalist Robert Ferguson. He said he joined the band because he knows there are Soldiers out there who have given up. "They don't have to feel like their world is over. I discovered there was life after my injury," said Ferguson. "I hope what these wounded warriors take from this experience is not to give up -- plain and simple."
Ferguson said that all of their music sends a message. "It's derived from the experiences we've gone through in combat and after coming home. These Soldiers will be able to relate to our songs and it's gratifying to know I can get out there and help someone by showing them it's not a weakness to ask for help. In fact, I believe it's a greater sign of personal strength to say 'I can't do this on my own,'" said Ferguson.
The band and its members are trying to be an inspiration to their fellow wounded warriors, but who inspires them' Ferguson said that one of his best friends at the Warrior Transition Unit in San Antonio, Texas, was his inspiration to keep moving forward. "He was an above-the-knee amputee. He lost his left leg and I lost my right. Sometimes we would just kind of lean up against one another for support. I'll never forget him and his positive attitude. He started walking about the same time I did, which was within four months of our injuries," said Ferguson.
The bass guitar player for the band, Kenny Palyola, said he found out what Delacerda was trying to do and thought it was an opportunity to make a difference. "After seeing Paul's web site and realizing this was the real thing, I listened to the music and it's good. I think these songs can have an impact on wounded warriors," said Palyola.
Levon Ingram plays acoustic guitar, sings vocals and writes songs for the band. Ingram has a traumatic brain injury that he is trying to overcome.
"My disabilities aren't the ones that you can see. I forget a lot of things and have painful migraines. At times, I've been a numb shell without any emotion at home and a totally different person to my wife and child. I've been in therapy for my injury. That's why my personal message to Soldiers is -- you're not less of a man if you ask for help," said Ingram.
He said most of the songs on the radio today aren't geared toward Soldiers. "We're trying to write music from a Soldier's point of view. We're focused on wounded Soldiers and want them to realize we care. I love music and it's a good way to show wounded warriors that being 'disabled' isn't the end. Our music gives us a chance to spread our message," said Ingram.
One song they sing is called "It's Not Easy Being." The lyrics seem to speak to the soul of a Soldier:
"Riding quickly into the city/ in the dead of night/ it's cold and windy/ the streets are empty and we're looking for a fight/ the moon is shining/ shadows are moving and the shots start ringing out/ the bombs are exploding/ we keep moving and there was never a doubt/ life isn't easy being a Soldier/ the battle is only half the fight." Ingram sings the song with all the emotion of someone who has been to war.
He said the band appreciated Fort Polk's hospitality. "They set us up in a room and have taken care of us. We're grateful for everything they have done for us and wounded warriors. It seems like this post is doing everything they can to help these guys," said Ingram.
"The guys in the band are totally in agreement and behind me. We all have the same thing in common -- we all want to give back to the people that continue to protect and serve just like we did. These Soldiers are still trying to figure out in their heads if their injury is going to be the end of their careers. It's hard to do that," said Delacerda.
Staff Sgt. Perry Demeson, WTU staff, played guitar with the band for a couple of songs during the band's set. He said jamming with the guys was fun. "I went up there cold and it wasn't my guitar, so it was kind of different," he said. "But I think the message that these Soldiers can overcome their injuries is good," said Demeson.
"Demeson just jammed with us on guitar. I don't know what we did for him today, all I know is he's happy. He was ecstatic to be able to play on stage with us. Those are the little things that matter the most to any of us here," said Delacerda.
After the concert, several Soldiers from WTU stayed to talk to the Warrior Spirit Band members. One Soldier, Sgt. Ronald Beck, played Delacerda's drums. "It's great that they let you come up on stage, hang out, talk and play the instruments if you want. I think a lot of Soldiers enjoyed the concert because we don't get this kind of thing all the time and it was really cool for the band to do this for us," said Beck.
Another wounded warrior at the event said he thought the band's message was to stay positive. "A lot of wounded Soldiers are depressed and it takes time to come out of that. They don't realize there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The band is good and their music has a positive message. I can only imagine how rough it was to quit their jobs to go on the road and play for us. I applaud that," said Spc. Brian Pensa, WTU.
Spc. Jo-lena Hageman, WTU, said even though she feels pain due to her injuries, she is thankful
she can walk and that's why she can't feel sorry for herself. "I think that's part of the message they're sending. The band members shared personal testimonies about their injuries and took time out of their lives to come to our little WTU. That means a lot," said Hageman. She said she really enjoyed the music. "They should be on the radio. It really touches my heart that they would come out here and spend this time with us. Not many people would do something like this," said Hageman.
Delacerda said his goal is to empower wounded warriors though their music. "Without music, I think Soldiers would be lost -- I know I would be. They go into battle and what are they carrying' An iPod filled with music. It's what drives them and keeps them sane. We're playing our music for the same purpose. That's what we want to do. We're committed to it now. We can't turn back. Even if only one or two people are affected by what we say and do, then we are doing something good. That's all that matters to me," said Delecerda.
For more information about the Warrior Spirit Band visit their web site at warriorspiritband.com.