By Annette P. GomesJuly 24, 2019
Staff Sgt. Jaime: Songs in the key of life
By Annette P. Gomes, Army Warrior Care and Transition
ARLINGTON, Va. - Music is a common language that unites, calms, inspires and heals. Every Thursday at 1 p.m., Soldiers, such as U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jaime Cruz, gather to experience its power at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
"I have been playing guitar since elementary through high school. I remember performing in several talent shows in high school and it was fun," Cruz said. "My dad had a guitar lying around the house and he used to play a couple of chords and the same tune over and over. My hunger for music grew at this point and it never left me."
Cruz says there is a purpose for everything in life and for him that purpose is teaching music or playing and performing for others "[Playing music] really lifts the spirits and takes away that pain running through their mind and body."
Cruz was dealing with his own pain when diagnosed with colon cancer in October of 2018.
"I have chemotherapy sessions every two weeks at Brooke Army Medical Center here in San Antonio. I've had a total of 20 chemotherapy sessions since October of 2018. The treatment is going very well and I have had good results in less than a year. I want to heal and return to duty and serve until my retirement," Cruz said happily.
After approximately six years as a petroleum handler, Cruz reclassified and became a member of the Army Band. Then after his cancer diagnosis, he became a volunteer with the Soldier Songs and Voices' San Antonio Chapter at the WTB. The group is composed of a vast spectrum of musical skill levels and abilities and a wide variety of instruments including drums and guitar. As Cruz heals at the WTB, he says he can walk a mile in the shoes of the Soldiers healing beside him.
"When I started sitting with them and teaching them music, I could see them concentrating on the music and how they were really getting into it, especially the guitar which is a hard instrument to play," Cruz said.
On Thursdays, the group gathers around in a small circle - usually groups of six to eight musicians grabs books with popular tunes and plays those selections. Some try to sing and play guitar at the same time or learn to play their favorite song, while others just want to learn some theory and really get into playing. The sessions are usually an hour, but we always lose track of time, it always happens," Cruz laughed.
Earlier this month, it was Cruz and a few fellow bandmates entertaining crowds at the Landa Park Dance Slab in New Braunfels, Texas.
"The United States Air Force Band invited me to perform on the 4th of July and it was awesome. I had a great time. I felt like I was back in the game after that performance. I really miss my full time job with the Army Band," Cruz said.
While the clock moves swiftly during the "jam sessions", one thing remains constant - Cruz's appreciation for the power of music.
"My Case Manager, Ms. Olga Ledford noted: because of my love of music, my enthusiasm, eagerness and positive attitude, great things are happening around me," Cruz said. "I tend to enjoy life to the fullest. It isn't always easy to overcome obstacles, and to choose happiness over and over again when life gets tough. However, no matter how hard it might be, I always come out on the other side just a little stronger. I do believe music is the best medicine."