July 23, 2007

A tribute to fallen heroes

Returning soldier, Josh Revak, uses music to help other soldiers, families cope

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Music has always been a part of Josh Revak’s life, but it wasn’t until he played in front of 600 soldiers during a memorial service in Baghdad that it took on a whole new meaning.

Revak, 26, returned home to Cokato July 1, after being stationed in Germany for five years, with two of them being in Iraq.

He was struck in the foot by a mortar round June 26, 2006 in Iraq and for the past year was recovering in Germany. Revak’s roommate, who was driving the Humvee, was killed in the blast.

While he was in Iraq, Revak continued playing the guitar and making music. He took guitar lessons from another fellow soldier, Aaron Jagger.

Together, they performed live shows and remade their unit anthem which got them featured on the cover of “Stars and Stripes,” a worldwide military newspaper.

Revak performed his first memorial service in 2003 after he was asked to write a song for a fallen soldier.

“There were 600 soldiers in tears, which is different than most services,” he said.

Revak was told he got to the soldiers’ emotions and helped many of them release.

After that, he had requests to perform during several memorial services, leaving him as little as two days to write a song.

“There is no greater cause for music than to write down someone’s legacy for family and friends to listen to and remember,” Revak said.

Revak’s songwriting has gone from average to mind-changing after the experiences and challenges he’s had to face.

Shortly after Revak was wounded, his guitar teacher was killed. That inspired him to record an album.

“It’s in honor of him,” Revak said.

His album is titled “In the Hours of Darkness.” It’s not only a tribute to those he served with in Iraq, but it’s also to help civilians learn what soldiers go through, he said.

Each song was written about a fellow soldier or his own war experiences. For example, War Games is about reoccurring nightmares.

“It’s meant for other soldiers so they can relate to it and have closure,” said his mother, Mary Woetzel of Cokato.

During his deployment, Revak discovered a newfound belief in God, which inspired his music, as well.

“My first deployment opened my eyes to something greater than this world,” Revak said.

“I believe God was with us,” he said.

With soldiers dying around him, it was not uncommon for the question of God’s existence to come up, especially in a Muslim country, Revak said.

He recalled a time when an Iraqi translator turned away from Islam to Christianity. The son of the translator had been deathly ill for weeks. The father received a cross from his Christian sister.

With nothing to lose, “He prayed like, ‘If you are real, prove it,’” Revak said. The next day, his son was miraculously healed.

Iraq is a country where people are killed for practicing any religion other than Islam, Revak said.

“So, it had to be something dramatic for him to speak out,” he said.

With the timing of his two deployments, Revak was able to see changes in Iraq from the moment the Marines took over Baghdad, to a country free from the control of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Things as simple as satellites were not allowed during Hussein’s regime.

“Saddam Hussein didn’t want his people to see the outside world. So, satellites, literally, went up overnight,” he said.

Schools for girls were quickly built and the supplies needed for them were given.

Lives for farmers, who once had very little equipment and support, were improved, according to Revak.

Although being home has hit him like a ton of bricks, he is happy to be home with his family and freinds.

Now, Revak is thinking about going to college for audio technology and music recording.

He also received a job offer to work for Disabled Veterans of America to fight for veterans’ benefits.

Revak is passionate about this because up to a month after being released from the Army, soldiers are still considered active and therefore don’t receive veteran benefits. This means a soldier can’t get routine care and physical therapy unless he goes to an Army base.

“Those things need to be changed,” he said.

He and his wife, Marta, whom he met while stationed in Germany, are expecting their second child in September. Their first daughter, Keilah, just turned 1 year old.

As far as his music, “We’ll just have to see what happens,” Revak said.

Those who would like to listen to Revak’s music can go to www.myspace.com/zoocrutchhiker.

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