Monday, September 05, 2005

Army Spc. Jeffrey A. Williams

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Jeffrey A. Williams, 20, of Warrenville, Ill.

Spc. Williams was assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo., killed Sept. 5, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his combat patrol in Tal Afar, Iraq.

Music helps soothe soldier's soul
Tunette M. Callis

Army Staff Sgt. Adrian Taylor remembers the Regimental Interment Facility at Tal Afar, Iraq, on that terrible day two years ago.
The air was almost unbearable with the stench of sweat and burnt flesh. The temperature soared to 130 degrees. Dirty and nearly delirious from the heat, he looked for a place to get a drink of water.

As he walked into the camp's headquarters, he heard several radios blasting the same information. It took a second for him to piece the static together, and for his day to get much worse: "Hey, one of your Regional Support Squadron medics just got killed."

That medic was Spc. Jeffrey A. Williams, 20, of Warrenville, Ill., who was killed when a roadside bomb exploded while he was riding in the back of an armored tank Sept. 5, 2005.

Losing his best friend — whom he called Will — was the worst day of his life, said Taylor, 28, who now is stationed at Fort Sam Houston.

Though Taylor had known Williams for only a year — they served together from Fort Carson, Colo., to Iraq — the two drew an instant connection.

"We were as close as two friends can get," Taylor said.

Since then, Taylor has coped with Williams' death the only way he knows how: music.

A longtime fan of rap, Taylor and two high school buddies formed the local rap group 1223 (pronounced twelve-twenty-three). Now, through his music, his friend never is far from his thoughts.

"I didn't know how to cope with it because I don't like talking about my issues," Taylor said. "Rapping has become my form of counseling."

The rap group members will be special guests at 6 p.m. today at Brooke Army Medical Center at the annual convention of Soldiers' Angels — an all-volunteer organization that provides care packages to American troops. They'll entertain wounded soldiers and hand out CDs.

"It's amazing what music can do," said Tina Saari, grief counselor and regional coordinator for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors at Fort Hood. "We use a lot of music therapy to cope with different situations such as song writing."

Taylor, a single father of four, steps into a sound booth and transforms into his rapping alter ego, Mr. Sylk. Beside him is his rapping partner, John "John-John" Kirk, 28, a real estate agent at USAA.

Released in the spring, their first CD is titled "Full Circle." The duo hope it appeals to the average rap/hip-hop fan, and broadens rap's horizons with songs without drugs, sex and violence.

Instead, messages about war and politics run deep throughout the CD.

In the song "Drive On," the two rap about a soldier's duty.

"Freedom has a price, but not enough glory. Imma make sure the whole world knows your story.

Got so much respect for new enlisted troops, done lost a few at war and still you filling in the boots.

Our job ain't to decide if the president's right or wrong. Your battle buddy in the prone, your job's to bring 'em home and drive on."

Now the group is teaming up with Williams' mother, Sandra Williams Smith, to start a combat medic scholarship fund to honor Williams. Three dollars from each $8.99 CD sold will be donated toward the fund.

"These are great guys," said Smith, who now lives in Mansfield and has been promoting 1223's CD through the Dallas area. "I cried when I heard their CD. They have a message on every song."

She's taken their CDs to radio stations in her area. Several of their songs already have received airtime in Dallas and at local radio station 98.5 FM.

"This wasn't for marketing purposes," Kirk said. "We wanted to do the right thing and honor the soldiers."

For now, the music continues its healing power.

The last writing session, a meeting where the duo write and rehearse songs, started out as it always does. Kirk paces around the house listening to the heavy beat of a song they're developing. He waits for the music to talk to him.

Eventually, he plops down on the sofa near Taylor, and Taylor wipes the tears from his face.

Army Spc. Jeffrey A. Williams was killed in action on 9/5/05.

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