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Former Soldier Writes Musical Tribute to Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2004 – A new song by a former soldier and country music songwriter and performer pays tribute to the men and women in uniform he said sacrifice the comforts of home and their loved ones for the freedoms America enjoys.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Rockie, a country music singer and songwriter from Minneapolis, pays tribute to America's servicemembers in his song "Red, White and Blue." An American flag is always on stage when the former soldier performs. Rick Lance Studio, Nashville

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

A Minneapolis-based songwriter known simply as "Rockie" has debuted "Red White and Blue" in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Its lyrics bring veterans to tears and servicemembers to stand at attention.

In the song, Rockie calls members of the armed forces "modern-day Minutemen and women, like heroes from the past" who reflect the values America holds dear. He points out that America's military is a cross section of America, representing every corner of the country, every race, every religion and every socioeconomic status.

Despite their diverse backgrounds, Rockie sings, all are "red, white and blue," ready to respond to whatever mission their country calls upon them to carry out.

"The military is a melting pot," said Rockie, who served with the 50th Signal Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C. "Regardless of their background, they're all part of the same team, and that's why all of America needs to support the troops."

"Red, White and Blue" reflects Rockie's love of the military and his hope that his fellow Americans will "get behind these kids" and support them, particularly when they go into harm's way in their country's defense.

Another song on his latest CD, "Big Time in a Small Town," pays tribute to servicemembers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa -- where he most frequently performs -- who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. "Home" has become the most-requested song in his performance-set list, he said.

From his humble roots -- spending the first years of his life in an orphanage - - Rockie has become a popular performer who enjoys sharing his love of the military with his audiences.

Ironically, Rockie was adopted at age 3 into a strict religious household where music was frowned upon. But Rockie said music always called out to him, and he spent his young years mowing lawns until he could buy his first guitar while in the 7th grade. In high school, he was sneaking out of the house to perform in local clubs.

Despite this exposure at such a young age, Rockie is a model of clean living. He said he's never smoked a cigarette, sipped a drop of alcohol, or used a single drug.

Rockie enlisted in the Army fresh out of high school. He called his military experience a turning point in his life, helping fund his musical training and giving him a deep appreciation of the sacrifices servicemembers make every day.

"I joined the military because it gave me an amazing opportunity to go to college through the Veterans Educational Assistance Program and to better my life," he said.

More importantly, he added, as a young child, he'd been impressed by an Army sergeant who lived two doors down from where he grew up.

"He went into the military when I was 4 or 5 years old," Rockie recalled. "He was a Special Forces soldier, and he went to Vietnam. He'd come home and I was so taken by him and his uniform and his attention to detail. He seemed so amazingly together. He was someone I looked up to. He always said to me, 'You have to realize that freedom is not free, it's our obligation.'"

Serving in the military was "a rite of passage," Rockie said, and being in the Army made him "more proud to be a citizen." A drill sergeant taught him to "never, ever quit."

"I learned to be more disciplined, and it helped me organize my life," he said. "It gave me time to set my goals and get myself in shape. I was a really skinny, outof-shape kid that had been really been beat up on in life with no self-esteem. I had a desire to do something in life but no direction as to how to do it.

"When I graduated from basic training," he recalled, "I remember thinking, 'If I can do this, I can do anything.' I was so insanely proud, when the drill sergeant said, 'Before, you were a recruit, today you are a soldier.'"

Rockie has remained friends with people he met in the Army. "The first person I called when I got a record deal was my friend Joe Jenkins. He's my buddy from (advanced individual training). It's odd because here I was a white guy from the deep south -- from a background of people who weren't very liberal -- and Joe's a black guy from Chicago. We're friends to this day. He taught me so much about life."

After three years, Rockie left the Army at the rank of specialist and used his educational benefits to attend a guitar school in California. Since then, his musical career has taken him to Nashville and Minneapolis, and he recently signed a recording contract with Universal Records. His first Universal album is slated to be out this spring.

As his career progresses, Rockie said he's never forgotten his military roots or lost his appreciation for the freedoms America's men and women in uniform protect.

"I have an amazing respect for those kids. They're all volunteers," he said. "Every single one of them felt a calling to serve our country. And it's important that we stand behind them and make sure they know we support them in that calling."

Red, White and Blue Slide Show http://www.defendamerica.mil/specials/RedWhiteBlue.html

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