Face of Defense: Soldier Finds Peace Through Music
By Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Avecilla
Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 24, 2011 People say it’s not what life throws at you, but how you handle it, that determines your character.
Army Spc. Diego Medina mans the turret as a gunner on a mission in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, Jan. 10, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley N. Avecilla
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
For one soldier on the provincial reconstruction team, that’s the story of his life.
Army Spc. Diego Medina -- one of the 40 infantrymen who make up the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 3rd Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment – has a lyrical talent that he uses to light his way.
Medina, who calls Boston home, was born in La Ceiba, Honduras, and moved to the United States as a child. He learned English from listening to hip-hop music, he said, and as a young teen, he lived a life filled with rage and frustrations. But he learned to turn negative into positive in the 10th grade, he added, and began to use music as an outlet of expression, freestyling in studio basements and school lunchrooms.
As time passed, Medina said, he began to take music seriously.
“I started to articulate poetic consciousness and take the art of lyricism more seriously, as a stronger means of communication,” Medina said.
In 2008, Medina joined the Army National Guard. The continuous trials he faced not only inspired his musical talent, he said, but also influenced his decision to enter the military.
Medina said he looked for a new path when his hope of playing college football didn’t come to fruition. The National Guard gave him the chance to attend college and the ability to develop and use his leadership skills, he said.
Medina said he’s using his experience with the provincial reconstruction team to write new material and learn the meaning of appreciation, finding peace where others find stress.
“Somehow in war, I find peace of mind, because grunts are comfortable in conflict,” he explained. “I’ve always performed best when under pressure, and it doesn’t get harder than being out here while maintaining composure.”
His first show was in Boston’s Strand Theater and he has since performed at the Youth Peace Conference for Teen Empowerment of Boston, the Verve Lounge, Zumix, the Boston Festival and more.
Medina’s stage name is Rey Leon, and his music can be found on social media sites. His next performance is scheduled for Feb. 8 at an event called Verbalization in Boston during his mid-tour leave.