MUSIC WITH A MISSION
Thursday, December 14, 2017
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
This event has been postponed. Get more details here.
Mike Madden has seen the Warriors Rock concert three times, and will catch the show for a fourth time Saturday when it comes to the Youngstown Playhouse.
“It’s such a unique show,” said the New Castle, Pa., area man, an Army veteran who served in Iraq.
Warriors Rock is a touring concert event that raises money for veterans and regularly brings them to tears.
With a 14-member band, it crafts a show unique to each city by meeting with local veterans beforehand and learning the song that moved them most when they were deployed. Videos featuring the vets are then made, in which they share their memories. Then the screen goes up and the band breaks into their song.
Gary Racan, who was the lead singer of vocal group The Vogues for 16 years, is the frontman for the band. He and his Studio E Band, which includes seven other vocalists, can accurately and powerfully reproduce songs in any genre.
Saturday’s show at the Playhouse starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 at the door ($15 for veterans and students), and also can be purchased in advance by calling 330-788-8739 or online at youngstownplayhouse.com.
Long before he first saw Warriors Rock, Madden witnessed the horrors of war. His duties with the 25th Infantry Division involved recovering the remains of fallen soldiers during combat in Iraq.
Now living in Union Township, Pa., with his wife and two daughters, Madden works at the Social Security office in New Castle. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and his service dog, Shiloh, helps him keep it under control.
Madden will be the beneficiary of Saturday’s Warriors Rock concert. The money it raises will go toward the purchase and training of his next service dog. It takes about $17,000 and a few years of training before a dog is ready.
Madden was deployed to Iraq in 2006. From the time a soldier was killed in action, he took over.
“From the time they fell in the line of duty until they are escorted back to the United States, I was in charge,” said Madden. I would fly to whatever base in Iraq, make sure they were given the respect they deserve, because they made the ultimate sacrifice.”
It was an emotionally tough job, and one mission in particular remains burned in his psyche.
“It was sometime after bed time, and we got a call to pick up remains,” Madden recalled. “We got to the base, and [the troops] were still getting back from battle. As we escorted the remains down an aisle with the soldiers on both sides, there was one soldier there who was burnt from head to toe, wearing nothing but a paper shirt because he could not wear clothes. When I think of the sacrifice that soldiers make, that is the worst I saw.”
Madden, who also suffered an injury at an Army base in Hawaii, struggled after returning home to Lawrence County.
Shiloh, his 41/2-year-old golden labradoodle, provides an indispensable service in keeping the veteran on an even keel – one that only a dog could provide.
“The dog picks up on my scent,” said Madden. “When I get stressed, she [notices the change in scent], and also my body language. After a hard and stressful day, she’ll come to me for attention, and that helps relieve that stress. My wife says I have ‘PTSD moments,’ when I lose control of everything. Subconsciously, you know what you are doing, but it’s so hard to control the anger or frustration or rage, and when you boil over, things go south and you lose control.
“The dog is trained to pick up on your emotions, and before you get to that point of saying something you’ll regret, or possibly doing something, she helps bring you down, back to reality. It gives you an opportunity to do a self-check and say, ‘I don’t need to get so frustrated about XYZ. Let me take a timeout and walk outside.’”
Madden said Shiloh also will nudge him awake when he has nightmares. “She’s got my back,” he said.
He hopes to have enough money in about two years to purchase and begin training on another service dog.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Kim Racan is one of the vocalists in Warriors Rock. She’s also the wife of band leader Gary Racan and the manager of the act.
She said the idea got started a few years ago when Gary wanted to use his Studio E Band, which mainly performed at private functions, to do a concert that made war veterans the stars.
It was such an immediate hit that Warriors Rock has started a foundation that benefits vets and veterans organizations, and is becoming a nationally touring act.
“The veterans pick the songs at each concert,” she said. “We do a video, a mini-documentary, on local veterans and show them at the concert, and that makes it personal.”
Because the veterans served in wars ranging from World War II to Iraq, the music spans decades.
The band takes the time to get each song down pat, regardless of style or age.
“It could be anything from the Glenn Miller Orchestra to ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,’ or ‘We Gotta Get Out of this Place’ or Patsy Cline,” she said. “Then [modern] country music started popping up. We inject these into the show. We might do ‘Uptown Funk,’ and then go into a Springsteen song.
“It’s very entertaining, very musical and moving. It’s a renewal of patriotism, and by the end, many people are crying.”