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Singer Teams With Army in Campaign to Keep Soldiers Safe

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2004 – Sixty years ago, a mother wrote to her three sons fighting in World War II. Her request of them was simple: "Make it home, make it safe."

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Award-winning Christian musician Mark Schultz performs in the Pentagon courtyard Aug. 25 at the Army's invitation. Schultz has teamed with the Army Safety Center as part of its "Be safe - Make it home" safety campaign. His song "Letters From War" is the centerpiece of the campaign. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

They all did. And her great-grandson, award-winning Christian musician Mark Schultz, has told her story inspired by those letters and her diary.

"Letters From War" tells of a mother writing her son, only to receive a letter one day from a man he helped to rescue. The son was captured, but the mother "kept on believing, and wrote every night."

The song relates the fear the mother had of being told her son wouldn't be coming home. Instead, he arrives to tell her he was just "following orders, from all of your letters, and I've come home again."

Because of "Letters From War," Schultz has teamed with the Army Safety Center on its new campaign, "Be Safe Make it Home" in an effort to reduce the number of accidental deaths.

The collaboration came about when an employee of an Atlanta film company that had done some work for the Army heard the song, Schultz said. That employee pitched it to the Army Safety Center as a great tie-in to the Army safety campaign. Center commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Smith thought it would be a good fit.

Schultz has worked on the campaign with the Army since May. His contributions include the video and public service announcements to both soldiers and their families about the importance of keeping soldiers safe.

"I can't imagine growing up without my three great-uncles that came back from the war. Those were my heroes," Schultz said. "My message to the troops is, I can't imagine growing up without them. Don't rob your kids and don't rob your great-grandkids of getting the chance to know you, and for you to be a hero to them."

The Army's accidental deaths jumped from 168 in fiscal 2001 to 255 in fiscal 2003, according to Army Safety Center officials at Fort Rucker, Ala. Statistics show that one soldier is killed in an accident every 34 hours. As of the August edition "Flightfax, Army Aviation Risk-Management Information" publication, 216 soldiers had died in 2004.

"Letters From War," which many think was inspired by Operation Iraqi Freedom, but was actually written before the conflict began, has been a concert favorite for fans. It keeps drawing standing ovations, Shultz said. When Schultz performed the song in the Pentagon courtyard today, the reaction was much the same.

The Army invited Schultz to perform for the Pentagon audience as part of his participation in the safety campaign. As the concert ended, Schultz expressed his appreciation for those who protect the soldiers.

"We're so grateful for all you do keeping soldiers safe," he said.

Army Master Sgt. Nydia Ocasio of Army headquarters said "Letters From War" is excellent and that it is a good vehicle to deliver the Army's message.

"The message is simple, and it's good music for the younger soldiers," Ocasio said, adding that she thinks it will have the positive impact on the safety goal that the Army is working toward. The Army's goal is to reduce accidental deaths by 50 percent, though Lt. Col Willie Gaddis, deputy director for Army safety, said no decline has been realized yet.

Schultz also visited the wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here Aug. 24. "I don't know that I was prepared for what I saw," Schultz said. "I didn't know how to prepare to go in for that. And the thing I was most unprepared for was their reaction to me, and that was one of gratefulness to be there.

"But also I was so inspired when I walked out of each one of those rooms," he continued, "because never once did I walk in there and see somebody who said 'I wish I wouldn't have done this. I wish I wouldn't have been involved with this.'"

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