Josh Revak - Graduate
Among all the gear Army Specialist Josh Revak packed for his first tour in Iraq, one item proved the most valuable by far.
Revak was a budding singer and songwriter when he signed up for the Army in 2002. Just out of high school in Duluth, Minn., he had been shaken by the events of September 11, 2001. He was hungry to carry on his family's military tradition. His grandfather had been a Marine, and his father had done an enlistment with the Army.
"I guess service just called," Revak recalls.
Revak shipped out for Iraq as a battle tank crew man in May, 2003. In charge of packing a personnel carrier for his battalion, Revak made sure to slip in something he couldn't imagine leaving behind: his acoustic guitar. "I kind of smuggled it to Iraq," he says with a laugh.
In the often trying months of his two tours in Baghdad, Karbala and the outskirts of Falluja, Revak would turn to his guitar for entertainment and solace more often than he could have imagined.
Several of his fellow Bandits, the battalion's nickname, joined Revak in evening jams and impromptu songs. "It was our voice," Revak says.
When the battalion suffered its first casualty, Revak and a friend volunteered to sing at the soldier's memorial service. "In the past, memorial services were more official and dry eyed," Revak remembers. "When we played, the guys were just weeping." From then on, Revak wrote and performed an original song for each memorial service.
Revak's war zone music making came to an end when a mortar projectile explosion left him with shrapnel in his feet, a fused ankle and a concussion.
Now 29, Revak has found a new mission with the Wounded Warrior Program. As a Military and Veterans Affairs Liaison to Rep. Don Young of Alaska, Revak handles a range of issues from benefits claims to veterans in need of counseling. "Helping a service member or veteran find their way out of despair and hardship creates a feeling of accomplishment like no other," Revak says of the work.
Revak hasn't left music behind. He recorded an album, "In the Hours of Darkness," and continues to perform, including recent and upcoming appearances on Fox News Channel's Huckabee show.
Ironically, Revak is not the first member of his battalion (1st Batallion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division) to find success in music. Another Bandit you may have heard of: Elvis Presley.
After successfully completing his fellowship in January 2012, Josh transitioned to a permanent position in the office of Congressman Don Young and continues to make a difference in the lives of Alaska's veterans.