In Veterans Day gig, Bands of Brothers muster awareness of PTSD
The guitar player constantly fiddles with his pedals.
The bass player is late.
The drummer can't stop grinning behind the kit.
The singer is sitting on an amp, sipping a bottle of water, wearing an Angry Birds T-shirt: "Flippin' Awesome."
It's only rock and roll. But they like it.
At a School of Rock rehearsal space in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the band Article 15 rehearses one last time before their debut Sunday, Veterans Day, at World Cafe in University City.
The members, all veterans of the U.S. armed forces, didn't know each other until 10 weeks ago. They were formed, Monkees-style, by producers Steve Holtzman and Lou Faiola, who hatched a reality-TV show concept to throw together musicians, then track their progress from strangers to show-ready in just two and a half months.
At the outset, 12 veterans were neatly divided into three bands. Nearly half of them suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Our intention was to raise awareness about PTSD," said Holtzman. "We didn't set out to cast veterans with PTSD. We found that it's hard to find vets who aren't dealing with PTSD.
"Most of our cast is dealing with PTSD right now," he said.
The singer, Ericka Glenn, served in the Marines during the first Gulf War in 1990. She spent six months in the desert, occasionally as a target for enemy bombs.
"When I returned, I was totally different. I didn't give a damn. Didn't care. They put us out there to be killed," said Glenn. "I didn't believe in war. I went to the Marines because I love what they stood for; I loved the discipline. When I felt we were fighting over oil, that was ludicrous."
After returning home, Glenn tracked a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol. She hit bottom, trying to raise her son while "living on other people's couches." She hadn't received any help because she didn't know to ask for it. Not from the Department of Veterans Affairs, not even from her church.
"If you go to church high, you're not getting nothing out of church," said Glenn. "The only thing I was getting out of it was listening to music. I started going to other churches, so I could learn and not be turned on by music. I'd go to church and as soon as I hear the fast music, I'm like, 'Yeah! This is where it's at!' I had to learn to get out of that."
Glenn says that after 15 years she did get help, but only because she got over her pride.
She's not the only one. That drummer, the one who's always grinning behind the skins ... he's got PTSD, too.
All three bands featured in the Bands of Brothers program will perform for the first time at World Cafe. The members of Article 15 believe the band has legs to keep on going after that first show.