Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for September 7, 2009 - Sgt. 1st Class Sean Bennett and Sgt. Daniel Jens

Sergeant First Class Sean Bennett and Sergeant Daniel Jens

Sgt. 1st Class Sean Bennett
Current Unit: Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery
Current Position: S-2 (Intelligence)
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Campbell, Ky.
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Years of Service: 17

Sgt. Daniel Jens
Current Unit: 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
Current Position: Field Artillery Crewman
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Hood, Texas
Hometown: Wauwatosa, Wis.
Years of Service: 5

Sgt. 1st Class Sean Bennett and Sgt. Daniel Jens are Soldiers and storytellers. Both are gifted musically, and have teamed up to use their talents to share their experiences through music. Both Soldiers recently participated in reality television music competitions, and are now participating in musical tours across the country. Their families, who supported them unconditionally during their deployments, continue to support them as they take to the road and share their stories with audiences who leave with a view on what it means to be a Soldier and what their families go through to support them.

As a member of the 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, Army Airborne Regiment, Bennett deployed to Iraq in September 2006. While serving as the Noncommissioned Officer-In-Charge, he was responsible for helping provide humanitarian aid and medical support to locals in Karbala, Iraq. He remained focused on the mission at hand, even after his unit was ambushed on Jan. 20, 2007. For continuing to lead his fellow Soldiers even after being wounded, Bennett was awarded the Silver Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

Jens completed a 15-month deployment in Iraq from 2006-2008 with the 82nd Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division. While deployed, he primarily served as a convoy escort driver and gunner in Baghdad. However, he also served on a four-month special duty with the Criminal Investigation Division guarding family members of a kidnapped Iraqi-American Soldier. Jens was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for volunteering his time to perform for Soldiers while deployed to Iraq.

After returning home, both Bennett and Jens turned to music to help them express the emotional realities of war and provide an outlet for others to understand their experiences overseas. In 2008, just a year after receiving the Silver Star Medal, Bennett was a top-ten finalist on NBC's "Nashville Star" show, and had the opportunity to sing with Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus. Jens also found the national spotlight when he made it to the Top 20 on NBC's "America's Got Talent" in the summer of 2008, after winning the Army's Blackjack Idol contest while he was deployed.

More than just performers, Bennett and Jens teamed up to collaborate on the song, "Life of a Soldier." Wanting to provide a glimpse into Army live, the lyrics speak to topics such as leaving one's family and missing holidays or special occasions. The Soldiers will perform a concert at the Grand Strand Freedom Fest on Sept. 11 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in support of Military Family Appreciation Month.

For both Soldiers, who have families of their own, the lyrics about leaving behind loved ones hit close to home. Bennett's daughter, who has watched her father deploy three times, has provided him with support and encouragement throughout his deployments and injuries. He is currently serving with the 320th Field Artillery at Fort Campbell, Ky. Similarly, Jens, a father of three, knows his deployment was hard on his wife, Caroline. However, after he returned home, she found the strength to help other military wives and is currently working on a book about challenges families and marriages face during deployments. The Jens family currently resides at Fort Hood, Texas.

Telling the Army Story: Community Relations

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