By Spc. Ruth McClary, 30th HBCT PAO, MND-BJuly 15, 2009
BAGHDAD - Battling hectic guard duty schedules, sewer back-ups and multi-day dust storms, five Soldiers of 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team formed a band to play at worship services on Forward Operating Base Falcon, providing solace in the midst of war.
The band members: Sgt. Brian Douglas, of Charlotte, N.C., with the 30th Brigade Special Troops Battalion; and Sgt. Stephen Ortiz, Fort Meade, Md.; Spc. John Riggs, Kinston, N.C.; Pfc. Cesar Titus, Statesville, N.C.; and Sgt. David Shively, Eden, N.C., all of Company F, 230th Brigade Support Battalion answered the chaplain's call for volunteer musicians and 'Seeking Solace' was born.
"I was thinking of home, comfort and worship when I thought about bringing them [Soldiers] to a level of peace," said Riggs, vocalist and guitarist. "Looking for solace developed from that thought and we shortened the name to Seeking Solace because it flows better."
Three members of the band started playing together for fun in Kuwait. When the brigade moved into Iraq in April, they volunteered to play at the worship services. A few weeks later two others joined the group by way of prayer.
"We (Douglas, Riggs, and Shively) played praise music at the chapel on Sundays," said Sgt. Brian Douglas, the band manager, vocalist, tambourine and djembe (an African skin-covered drum pronounced jim-bay) player.
"After service, we talked about adding some bass, so we prayed about it," he said. "The next day, Pfc. Cesar Titus, who knew I was the chaplain's assistant, asked if we could use a bass player."
A prayer after practice one evening for a keyboardist led to the addition of Sgt. Stephen Ortiz the very next day and the band roster was complete. All play for their churches or bands in the States.
The band recently performed during a prayer luncheon on Independence Day and later that evening traded the chapel for the stage, performing a two-hour concert for a crowd of about 100 Soldiers and civilians on the post basketball courts. They played contemporary rock music and the crowd was very responsive.
"It was a fantastic performance," said Sgt. Jessica Bucci-Hestermann, Leicester, N.C. "They have a way of raising morale through their music. There were civilians, firefighters and local nationals there and they all enjoyed themselves."
And to top it off, Shively, the drummer, had to leave the performance early for guard duty, but the crowd didn't seem to notice. The keyboard player, Sgt. Thomas Yazvac of Clover, S.C., a filler for that performance, took over the drums until the end of the concert.
"The crowd was great, very receptive and patient with sound and set-up between songs," said Douglas.
The band overcame the obstacles of that concert to gain a new purpose, which is to offer a musical outlet to brigade Soldiers at smaller outlying bases.
"We would love to play more and travel to other FOB's and JSS's to perform for Soldiers to boost morale," said Riggs. "Maybe this performance will give us the exposure needed to make that happen."
The band members said Soldiers here can relate to the songs they play like: "Sweet Home Carolina", and "Margaritaville", which they renamed "Falconville", changing the lyrics to include parodies of the brigade base rules that Soldiers have come to 'love' so much.
"Music is such an encouragement for people here; it brings people together," said Douglas. "Soldiers need a release and we realize that our purpose for playing music is providing an atmosphere for them to let it out."