Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Makes The Heart Sing...!

If this story from the Houston Chronicle doesn't get you chocked up, then maybe you should get some help!

A story like thio is certainly a sign of the strength of the Human Spirit! It makes you realize just what folks can do if they want to badly enough!

Disabled veteran wants to form band, called Warrior Spirit, made up of others wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan combat

July 6, 2010, 12:10AM

Retired Staff Sgt. Paul DeLaCerda, 38, wounded in Iraq, plans auditions for his band this month.

E-mail Paul DeLaCerda at Auditions will be held during an open mic night for veterans of all wars at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, on July 29. Doors open 7 p.m. Show will start at 8 p.m. Event is free and open to the public.

About three months after returning from a combat tour in Iraq, Paul DeLaCerda stepped into a Walmart near Fort Bragg in North Carolina and suddenly realized he couldn't remember his own name.

"I forgot where I was at, I forgot who I was, I forgot what I was doing there," he said. "I sat there for 10 minutes trying to figure it out."

The Army staff sergeant from Houston was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury from a bomb blast that had almost destroyed his Humvee in Iraq in 2005. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, back pain and nerve damage.

"When somebody tells you you're disabled, it's almost like the end of the world," recalled DeLaCerda. "You feel like everything's over, like you can't be 100 percent anymore."

DeLaCerda, who drummed for several heavy metal bands before he enlisted, fell back on music to keep his spirits up. Now he's recruiting members for a new band, called Warrior Spirit, that will be made up of disabled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Auditions will be held later this month at an open mic night for veterans at House of Blues in downtown Houston.

"It'll show other people that despite our disabilities, we're overcoming them," said DeLaCerda, who celebrated his 38th birthday on the Fourth of July.

DeLaCerda deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the 82nd Airborne Division.

His unit was assigned to look for improvised explosive devices and provide emergency response if any bombs did go off. Music kept him sane.

During deployment, "your music is your outlet and everybody shares," DeLaCerda said. "You've got your 'angry music,' and you got your 'I want to relax music,' you've got your 'chill music 'and the 'music that reminds you of home.' "

He had a hard time falling asleep in the bombed-out house where he and his fellow soldiers lived in Tal Afar, near the Syrian border. The distant sound of gunshots and explosions kept him on edge. The only way he could drift off was if he listened to music with one headphone in his ear. He left out the other headphone in case of emergency.

"When I was in Iraq, I mostly listened to old Metallica and just some heavy 'Let's go out there and go get 'em' kinda music," DeLaCerda said. "Then during my recovery process I got into jazz and blues because to me it says a lot about how you feel. That's what blues is all about: that even though you're down and out you sing it and let everybody know how you feel."

DeLaCerda medically retired from the military in June of last year, but chafed against doctors' warnings that the memory loss, back pain and numbness in his arms and legs that ended his Army career might limit his civilian life, too.

"I was told I couldn't play drums, couldn't run, couldn't lift heavy things, like my kids, for instance, which really sucks," DeLaCerda.

He got the idea for the Warrior Spirit band at a talent show during a retreat hosted by the non-profit Wounded Warrior Project in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

"They scrounged up a drum set for me, so I got up there and threw down a drum solo, and a guy with a prosthetic arm got up and played guitar," DeLaCerda said. "Afterward, we were sitting around talking, and I was like, 'We should put a wounded warrior band together.'"

DeLaCerda is looking for disabled combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or other wars, who can sing or play guitar, trumpet, sax, bass, keyboard, or pretty much any other instrument. He envisions the band playing a variety of music, hard rock, blues, jazz or even rap.

"And of course we're going to do some originals based on some of the experiences the band members have had during war, and their personal struggles they've had since they've become disabled," he said.

DeLaCerda already has received offers of gigs in Chicago, New York and here in Houston, where Warrior Spirit could perform at Veteran's Day and Memorial Day events.

"We're trying to support him in getting the word out to all the veterans if there are any musicians out there," said John Boerstler, president of Lone Star Veterans Association in Houston. "We definitely want to see this happen because some of the guys who are severely wounded, it's good for them to get involved in something positive that recognizes their sacrifices."
'From the heart'

The band's concerts would provide an opportunity for the public to see veterans in a positive light and for fellow veterans to network and share war stories and advice, DeLaCerda said.

Sonya Rowe, DeLaCerda's former nurse case manager at Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion, said the band could be therapeutic.

"I'm a psychiatric nurse, and I see very often that music is a way for people to move into another frame of mind, to take them to a different level, or take them to a different place where they're not always frustrated," Rowe said.

"It's the greatest feeling in the world to play with other vets and know that these guys know where you came from and know that the music, when you play it, it's from the heart," DeLaCerda said.

Time for coffee on the patio this morning...then off to visit the San Jacinto Monument and the battleship Texas!


DianeLynn said...

What a wonderful spirit he has. Though I have never went thru what he has and is going thru...but I know what music can do for your soul, spirit and peace of mind.

Grumpyunk said...

You're right, great story!

JoJo said...

Good Morning My Special One
What a fantastic story. Yes music can bring back your heart and soul. I wish them the best of luck.
I am happy you are getting out and about too.

Ben in Texas said...

Don't ya just love it when the Human Sprint is stronger than the so-called experts? Well done Sgt!!!

And Hermit!!!YOU didn't make one comment on your visitor from Down under! what up??

Mechanic in Illinois said...

I wish I had half the drive Sgt.DeLaCerda has. We will prevail and survive because of people like him. Thanks for another great lesson.

Tatersmama said...

What a wonderful spirit! Our country owes these vets our undying gratitude, and anything we can do to support them and their recovery, is something that we NEED as fellow Americans, to do!

Do you still have your company with you? Kind of sounds like it, with the touring of the sights!
Have fun, and enjoy!
(pics would be lovely too, you know! ;)

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank each and everyone of you on this site for the well wishes and support...its americans like you that keep this country going and makes me ever so proud to have sacrificed my time in my life to it. As we say in the Airborne..."ALL THE WAY!"

Warrior Spirit Band