music to their ears
The Salvation Army Gives Back to Veterans
“It’s about time to re–engage with the military and to bring the Gospel to them through missions.”
—Dr. Norman Raymond, CSM, Chapel at Worthington Woods
Last November, author Dan Perkins got a message from the Lord. It happened while traveling a desolate stretch of Route 75, Florida’s “Alligator Alley.” He was on his way from Sanibel Island in the northwest to Miami Beach in the south.
“About 45 minutes out, I started to get cold and clammy and sweaty. And my vision started to blur,” Perkins recalls. “I pulled over to the side of the road. I don’t know what happened next, but after about 15 minutes, everything cleared up. And that’s when I realized the Lord had told me the name of a foundation, ‘Songs and Stories for Soldiers,’ and what I was supposed to do.”
Songs and Stories for Soldiers, a 501(c)(3) non–profit corporation, was formed to provide free, customizable electronic entertainment to active and retired members of the military. A small package given to each veteran includes an MP3 player with ear buds and a USB connection cable.
Perkins soon met Dr. Norman Raymond, the corps sergeant major at the Chapel at Worthington Woods in Columbus, Ohio. Raymond, after hearing about the foundation, introduced Perkins to Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, territorial commander, and Lt. Colonel Kenneth W. Maynor, territorial program secretary.
“I was a Salvationist ‘connector,’” Raymond says.
The group met for breakfast to discuss how The Salvation Army might help.
“That went very well and everyone thought it was a great idea,” Raymond says.
Perkins, who served stateside during the Vietnam War, said whether veterans “have bodily scars or emotional ones, each vet is changed by war.”
“We know the price every active duty member of the armed forces pays,” Perkins says on his website (www.danperkinsatsanibel.com).
“We want them to know we are working to do something for them. By providing this customizable MP3 player, veterans wounded on duty will have soothing songs, stories, and their own type of music that they enjoy. While not an answer to all their needs, it is something we can do to remind them that someone cares.”
So far, the foundation has distributed about 3,000 MP3 players in VA hospitals around the country. The Salvation Army is responsible for giving out about 900, mostly in Cleveland and in Dayton, Ohio.
Major Diana Capanna, who handles community care ministries in the NEOSA Division, said that each month, Salvationists visit the local VA hospital in Cleveland.
“We meet, pray together, and review the guidelines before we split up and minister on separate floors in the hospital,” she says. “During our monthly visits, we distribute gifts and the War Cry magazine.
“Our gifts usually consist of puzzles, pens, crosswords, lap robes, socks, and toiletries. We do our best to find out what the veterans need and want and order these things for them.”
Perkins said that’s why he wants to work closely with the Army.
“We’re going to work with The Salvation Army to look at every hospital that they have a relationship with in the territory and try to launch Songs and Stories in all of them,” he says.
Raymond said that, during WW1, WW2, and the Vietnam War, The Salvation Army was involved in helping veterans. During Christmas, Raymond stands kettles to raise donations for the Army. He said that many aging veterans often stop and talk to him about The Salvation Army’s kindness to the troops.
“It got me thinking, Are we connected at all? Are we supporting the troops like we used to and how our heritage calls us to?’ ” Raymond says.
Raymond remembers a childhood friend, Rick Knickerbocker, who died in Vietnam.
“When I heard about the MP3 program, I thought, Wow, what a great way to re–engage in a major way with all of our units,” said Raymond.
“The fellas who are in the hospitals, they spend many hours alone. The medical staff does what it can, but otherwise, they’re alone. We need troops to take these [packages] into the hospitals, and who better to do it than The Salvation Army?”
by Robert Mitchell