Soldier reflects on military service
To Monroe County residents, he is first and foremost the founder of an organization that has used $300,000 of donated funds to help more than 200 local combat veterans.
He has coordinated four years’ worth of benefit concerts — the most recent of which raised $91,103.88 — and continues his efforts to help combat veterans in any way he can. But Songs4Soldiers founder Dustin Row also served for a time in the Iraq War.
“At a very young age, I can remember the Gulf War vaguely, and not long after that, I had this clear premonition that I would serve,” he said of his decision to join the military.
The Columbia man joined the U.S. Army in 2004, and was stationed 35 miles outside of Baghdad in Balad, Iraq, until 2005. Row, 33, served in the 724th Transportation Unit. The unit escorted fuel convoys, ending up in the front line of many battles that — in at least one instance — produced fatalities.
“During our tour we experienced many firefights, IEDs, and land mines, but none worse than the attack on our convoy on April 9, 2004,” Row recalled on the Songs4Soldiers website.
That attack occurred when the unit drove a support convoy straight into an “ongoing offensive.” Not only were two men killed, but a third was taken as a prisoner of war — he was found dead years later.
“There were tons more firefights after that, but that’s the one you most commonly hear about because of how bad it was,” Row said.
Out of such tragedy, Row said he has learned to appreciate what he has in life.
“It’s easier for me to realize how good I have it. You develop this all-around perspective for life that you can lean on,” he said.
Two of the greatest blessings he received upon returning home from the war were that of a good job and family support.
Because of that, Row believes, he was able to avoid developing post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health complications.
“I was super lucky to make it through unscathed. In other parts of the country, I know my friends who came home didn’t get any support,” he said.
Row certainly hasn’t missed an opportunity to use his blessings to help local combat veterans as Songs4Soldiers looks to expand its next concert into a two-day event Sept. 22-23 with national touring bands. He said with confidence that the concert will far surpass the $100,000 mark for donations.
To become a sponsor of the event, contact Row at email@example.com. The sponsorship deadline is June 15.
The community has proven its loyalty to veterans time and again with Songs4Soldiers being but one example, and Row said that will be no different on Memorial Day this coming Monday when veterans across the country are recognized.
“Everybody’s really great around the holidays associated with veterans,” he expressed. “It’s nice when I’m invited out to events in the community and I get to talk about my story.”
For a listing of local Memorial Day services, turn to page 6B.