By Molly Hayden Hawaii Army Weekly Staff WriterNovember 21, 2008
KAHALUI, Hawaii - Veteran L.A. Keith Crosby has hundreds of songs inside his head. About three years ago, he finally wrote the words to a song that had been brewing in his mind for almost 30 years, from his days back in Vietnam.
The words Aca,!A"Stay strong, the nation will never forget you,Aca,!A? rang softly to a melody many Soldiers related to.
Crosby knows firsthand the tribulations of being a Soldier in combat and was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, well after his military career had ended. Teaming up with Gresford Aca,!A"LewisAca,!A? Lewishall, the two started the organization StayStrongNation.org to aid the men and women of the armed forces to a healthy reintegration into society following deployment.
The project is the vision of Crosby and Lewishall who have formed the charitable organization. This grassroots effort reflects their commitment to the more than 1.65 million service members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
The campaign began with a recording of the song Aca,!A"Stay Strong,Aca,!A? reminding Soldiers that they will not be forgotten once they return home. The anthem is designed to give troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan hope despite the difficult situations they face, and to raise awareness about the often invisible fight against PTSD that plagues veterans of war.
The featured vocalist, Charles Cook, has a long history with the military services, and most recently deployed to Afghanistan. The soundtrack also features female vocalist Amber Riley. Crosby and Lewishall acted as executive producers.
The CD comes with a postcard that can be filled out and returned to the song's executive producers. The postcards and words of encouragement will then be posted in dining facilities and other places where the troops congregate.
Proceeds from the CD sales will go to raise money for an oceanfront PTSD treatment facility on the island of Maui.
Aca,!A"We chose Hawaii because of the tranquility and atmosphere,Aca,!A? said Lewishall. Aca,!A"We will give them everything they have given us, we need to take care of our brothers and sisters in the military.Aca,!A?
Expected to cost around $15 million, the center will provide Soldiers returning from combat zones and diagnosed with stress any necessary therapy within a relaxed environment, free of charge. While receiving treatment from medical professionals, they'll be able to take advantage of such amenities as snorkeling, whale watching, tennis and basketball courts, musical programs and a computer center.
The duo hopes to have the center up and running within three years.
Aca,!A"Many Soldiers are falling through the cracks and returning to the theater before they are ready,Aca,!A? said Crosby. Aca,!A"They give everything and they deserve everything when they get back.Aca,!A?
This critical message comes at a time when there are rising concerns that the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are producing an alarmingly high number of cases of PTSD. An April 2008 Rand Corporation study noted that 300,000 veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan reported signs of major depression or stress disorder.
Aca,!A"PTSD is a hidden wound that a lot of people donAca,!a,,ct know about,Aca,!A? said Staff Sgt. Melissa Cramblett, Portland Recruiting Battalion. Aca,!A"With this resort, they can debrief and feel they are safe and appreciated.Aca,!A?
Cramblett is the face of StayStrongNation.org and spoke of her injuries sustained in combat in Iraq. She returned home after deployment with PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and loss of hearing, along with other complications from physical trauma, including a shattered pelvic bone and broken knees. She continues to work with Soldiers through StayStrongNation.org and the Wounded Warrior Mentor Program.
Aca,!A"When we are in uniform, we have a brotherhood and an obligation to take care of each other,Aca,!A? said Cramblett. Aca,!A"We want Soldiers to understand they need help and that what they are suffering from is not a weakness.Aca,!A?
The new PTSD support facility will be named after Cramblett and will provide support to many Soldiers for years to come.
Aca,!A"We need all the support we can get,Aca,!A? said Crosby. Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs the least all of us can do.Aca,!A?
(Molly Hayden writes for the Hawaii Army Weekly.)