Songs4Soldiers concert continues to grow - Republic-Times | News

Songs4Soldiers concert continues to grow

By on September 9, 2015 at 11:31 am
Kids dance to music by the Super Majik Robots during last year’s Songs4Soldiers concert in Columbia.

Kids dance to music by the Super Majik Robots during last year’s Songs4Soldiers concert in Columbia.

The third annual Songs4Soldiers benefit concert takes place Saturday afternoon at a new venue: Bolm-Schuhkraft City Park in Columbia.

A suggested donation of $10 is asked for admission when the gates open at 3 p.m.

Songs4Soldiers is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping combat veterans.

“As the fundraiser grows, so does our exposure to veterans that need help. So, obviously, we want to raise more funds to get us through the year,” Songs4Soldiers founder Dustin Row said.

“Of all the money raised, no one on our committee gets paid at all. One-hundred percent of any funds that come into our organization goes to the combat veterans that come to us for all sorts for things.”

In the previous two years, the concert was held in the Columbia Centre parking lot.

“The reason why we had to switch to the park is simply because of the growth of the event,” Row said. “We were in the Schnucks shopping center and Joe Koppeias parking lot, and they were very, very gracious hosts for the past two years. We are simply moving for more space. We are going from a one-acre area to a three-acre area to accommodate the crowds and honestly, I think people will enjoy having a concert in the park rather than a parking lot.”

The growth of the concert is something Row is expecting again this year. Last year’s concert, the second ever, doubled in just about everything.

“Last year, I think it’s safe to say, everything basically doubled. We brought in double the sponsorships that allowed us to put on a bigger show,” Row said.

“Then we doubled the money raised; we raised about $30,000. We essentially doubled the attendance, too. With that money raised, we helped 13 combat veterans this year.”

The organization also helped out two other similar foundations.

“We worked very close with two other veterans organizations that are a lot like ours,” Row said. “There is this foundation called Arbor Health, who helps combat veterans coming in with room fare and work through their demons. One thing we did for them is we provided their entire recreational room. We got them a couple pool tables and it cost about $2,000 to upgrade everything.”

Row — a veteran from Columbia who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 — started the organization because of the great support he received when he came home.

But that isn’t the case for all veterans, Row said.

“Unfortunately, I lost some buddies — three were killed and a lot were wounded. I lost another at home to suicide. I basically came home to a typical, movie-like hero’s welcome,” Row explained.

“I got a great job, the city of Columbia hired me almost right away. I didn’t have to deal with what, I would say, 60 to 70 percent of our returning combat veterans had to go through.

“I came home to a very supportive town and family. I know from seeing my friends, they came home to not even anything close to that. No jobs. Some of them went and did more tours of Iraq or Afghanistan because there was no work.”

Row also talked about having survivor’s guilt — something he hasn’t previously discussed.

“I did make it through some bad things; I literally didn’t even get shot or hurt,” Row said.  “I just wanted to take being a musician and put it to good use. So, that’s how the concept for Songs4Soldiers happened. “

Row is a drummer for Where’s Charlie?, one of the bands playing at the benefit concert. The concert will also feature the talents of PettyCash Junction, Super Majik Robots and SuperJam.

Also at the concert will be a kids area for rock climbing, bounce houses, face painting and games. There will be food provided by local vendors.

Although fun is one of the goals for the benefit, everything goes back to helping veterans.

“We have a decent, steady stream of veterans that come to us throughout the year,” Row said. “I never know what I’ll get in my email inbox or in phone calls. Ninety percent of our veterans come from (Veterans Affairs) case workers who know about us. They’re working with particular combat veterans and they have something particular that they need. That’s when we step in and help.”

Songs4Soldiers has taken over September for a simple reason.

“I literally picked September because I Googled, ‘best time for outdoor weather in the St. Louis area,’” Row said. “That’s why I choose September.”

With the growth of the concert, Row is humbled by the community’s response.

“Shoot, man, three years later, my head is in the clouds, but I can tell you my feet are firmly on the ground,” Row said. “We’re just rolling with the punches and doing all we can to help these men and women who come to us.”

Spencer Michelson

Spencer is a recent college grad and from the St. Louis Area. He spent the past year working for a small paper in Kansas and has found his way back to the area. He spends much of his time rooting for the Cardinals, Blues and Rams. He also enjoys binge-watching good television shows and going to the movies.