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Minnesota National Guard
Iraq veteran Gary Roslyn reaches out, looks inside through songs about war and aftermath

Gary Roslyn hadn't played an instrument since he was 18

Now he has a guitar, a keyboard, a 10-track mixer and stories of war and its aftermath to inspire his music

Music became solace and therapy after the 36-year-old Minnesota National Guard Soldier returned from Iraq with spinal injuries

Roslyn has written and recorded 11 songs and performed them at venues including VFWs in Bloomington and Fridley and the National Guard Armory in Rosemount

His "Soldiers of War" CD is the most complete collection of his music Proceeds from sales benefit wounded combat veterans

"When I came back, doctors told me I needed to find something that would help me get back with family, get back with life," said Roslyn, who lives in Burnsville with wife Jessica and their family "I hadn't picked up a guitar or instruments since I was 18 years old"

The Michigan native and former steelworker joined the guard shortly after Sept 11, 2001 He'd been working as a Northwest Airlines flight attendant and wanted some part-time work, given the turmoil in the airline industry

Roslyn was part of a massive deployment of Minnesota Guard Soldiers in September 2005 He served in Iraq as a military truck driver from March 2005 to August 2006

He was based at Tallil Airbase, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and drove humvees on supply convoys across the country

"We were just truck drivers trained to fire if we had to fire," Roslyn said "We were there to protect the (civilian) convoy drivers because they didn't have any weapons at all"

In July 2006, Roslyn encountered his first and last direct attack as his convoy left Camp Anaconda, a US base near Balad

"There were probably 40 insurgents and only our five trucks - the same 15 Soldiers against all of them And it was 9:30 at night, so it's pitch black," Roslyn said

"It was a complete ambush," he said "They shot RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) at us; they blew up bombs They were shooting out windows of churches where we couldn't shoot back The convoy commander said it looked like the Fourth of July back there"

Two of the 15 Soldiers in the convoy were killed An explosion in front of Roslyn's truck caused his head to smack into the vehicle's roof

He suffered traumatic brain injury and spinal compression Nerve damage was permanent on the left side of his body Speech and memory were interrupted He was sent home the following month and medically discharged a year later

Back home, Roslyn could no longer work as a flight attendant because his weakened left arm kept him from pushing an airline cart or lifting heavy luggage overhead

He only recently found work as maintenance supervisor at a Richfield townhome complex

Roslyn has suffered other health problems - H pylori bacteria, prostate enlargement and epidermal cysts - that he suspects are related to the air, food or water in Iraq

"I wouldn't have had all these problems without being over there," Roslyn said "Before I went over, I was a 5K runner, I was a 10k runner and a four-mile sprinter "¦ I used to run every day, and now I can't run because of my spine injury I'm bitter because I lost a lot of what I used to be able to do"

But the experience awoke the songwriter in Roslyn

His wife had planned to buy him a guitar for Father's Day last year, thinking it would help strengthen his left hand

"He beat me to it," Jessica said "He asked two weeks prior to that if he could get one"

Plainly written and plaintively sung, Roslyn's songs include "Back Home," a tribute to Jessica's brother, Jesse Lhotka, one of the first Minnesota guardsmen killed in Iraq

"Return on Father's Day" is an ode to absent Soldiers and their babies Natalia, the youngest of the couple's six children, was 9 months old when he left for Iraq and 2 when he returned

"But now you've grown
And you can pray to the Lord on your own," he sings

"Broken" is for the wounded:

"While I sit and wait
For my body to heal
With the help of some water
And the help of some pills"¦
How can I be so damn broken?"

Roslyn has sold more than 500 CDs and raised nearly $2,000 for the Combat Wounded Soldiers Foundation, a fund he started through the Minnesota Military Family Foundation

Roslyn said he's spent much more than that recording and, in some cases, renting halls to put on concerts

"We never did start off to try to make myself big or popular off of it," he said "We just did it for the wounded Soldiers"

by John Gessner
Thisweek Newspapers
Article source: http://hometownsource.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3141&Itemid=86

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