Monday, September 20, 2004

Vietnam vet's CD supports troops in Iraq

By James Hannah
The Associated Press

DAYTON - When Rick Crawford returned from the Vietnam War in 1970, anti-war protesters spit on him.

Although the fighting in Iraq has not generated those kinds of protests, Crawford wants to make sure U.S. soldiers and their families escape that kind of treatment. And he wants Americans to know what the soldiers are going through.

He and the other four members of "Frienz" produced a CD titled Ten Page Letter From A Soldier.

The lyrics of the pop/rhythm-and-blues disc draw on Crawford's memories and conversations with soldiers. The songs are sung as if they are letters being written home by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

"I can imagine how they feel over there because I've lived what they're going through," said Crawford, 57. "There's a lot of crying and a lot of guilt when a 19-year-old has to kill another man. Everybody who's ever fought in war will never be the same."

The Army and Air Force are selling the CD at 118 exchanges around the world. The Ohio National Guard has given them to military families.

Susan Ringling, 48, of Pittsburgh, heard the CD when her son, Gary, was stationed in Iraq with the Marines.

"That CD just really stirred up a lot of emotions and brought him closer," she said.

The CD features such titles as "Letter from a Soldier," "I'm Still Here" and "I'll Be Coming Home Again."

Gary Ringling, 22, now home on leave, said he heard the CD while in Iraq. "It gave me a feeling that people in the states are actually caring about us and worrying about us," he said.

Support is what Crawford didn't feel when he returned from Vietnam.

He enlisted in the Army at age 21 and found himself in Vietnam during the heavy fighting of 1968.

"It was nightmarish. It was something that never leaves your life," he said. He said he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

In 1990, fellow band member Gregory Thompson wrote "Letter From A Soldier" dedicated to U.S. troops fighting in the Persian Gulf War. More than 100,000 copies of the song were sold.

After the fighting in Iraq began, Crawford approached Thompson about writing a series of songs for the troops.

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