Magazine article VFW Magazine

GI-Turned Country Music Star

Magazine article VFW Magazine

GI-Turned Country Music Star

Article excerpt

This Iraq veteran translated his war experiences into a patriotic country tune.

Like many young men, Luke Stricklin grew up playing Army. He knew that as soon as he was old enough, he would become a "real GI Joe."

When he was 17, the Arkadelphia, Ark., teen joined the National Guard and was off to infantry training at Ft. Benning, Ga. He was in advanced individual training at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But it wasn't until March 2004 that he was deployed to Iraq.

"I wasn't too surprised by the news that we were heading over," said Stricklin, 22. "I'm glad I went. It was the best and worst experience of my life."

As a member of the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment (Arkansas National Guard), Stricklin regularly patrolled the streets of Baghdad, where he interacted with Iraqis.

"I actually enjoyed being around the people and getting to learn about their culture," says Stricklin, who was a rifleman.

He noted that the highlight of his time in Iraq was passing out treats to the children.

When he would talk with his mom or his wife, Ashley, on the phone, they would ask what it was like and he would simply reply, "hot," and change the subject. He says he couldn't really tell them what it was like because he knew they would worry.

That's why he decided to write a song about his experiences as a soldier, husband and son.

Introduced to music at age 3, Stricklin was no stranger to this arena. He bought a guitar off the streets of Baghdad and when he wasn't on patrol, he drank coffee and played the guitar with buddies J.R. Schulz and Nick Martin.

Stricklin and Schulz put their heads together and wrote a song called "American by God's Amazing Grace," and recorded it on a laptop using a small microphone.

The song was e-mailed home to let his family know how things were "really going." (Part of the lyrics are "Tell my wife don't worry, because I know what to do. …

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