Sgts. 1st Class James Kruczek and Dion Kruczek sing one of the 20 songs they wrote or compiled for a compact disc that tells the stories of soldiers on a deployment to Iraq.

Sgts. 1st Class James Kruczek and Dion Kruczek sing one of the 20 songs they wrote or compiled for a compact disc that tells the stories of soldiers on a deployment to Iraq. (Rick Emert / S&S)

BAMBERG, Germany — During their year in Iraq that ended in February, husband and wife James and Dion Kruczek entertained the troops as part of 1st Infantry Division Band’s Enter Sandman rock group.

At the same time, the two were writing and compiling songs for a compact disc that would tell the story of a soldier’s deployment to Iraq.

While Dion wrote about 11 songs for the project, the other nine were written by soldiers in Iraq and recorded by Dion and James.

The project began after the division chaplain, Chap. (Lt. Col.) Mike Lembke asked Dion to write a song for a service honoring soldiers who had died in Iraq, she said.

“It was a good way for me to vent my feelings and try to do something positive,” she said.

Once the project really started moving, it gave the Kruczeks something to focus on during the deployment while not busy entertaining soldiers.

“It became a way to do something positive,” Dion said. “Instead of just doing our one year of duty, we wanted to do something to further validate being away from our family. This project has turned my life around.”

Another driving force in compiling the songs was to combat the negativity of news stories about soldiers in Iraq, James said.

“It seemed that every story you read was something bad about what was happening there and that things were miserable,” he said. “These songs tell stories about courage and about the individual soldiers.”

While Dion wrote more than half of the songs, soldiers the Kruczeks met in their travels also contributed songs, including some from Lembke and from an Australian special operations soldier who wished to remain anonymous, Dion said.

In one song, Dion wrote the music to accompany lyrics written by Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Mitchell, another band member, for his wife. Another was for a band member’s husband who saw one of his fellow soldiers killed by a roadside bomb, she said.

Although the Kruczeks are still seeking pieces from soldiers through their Web site,, work is already under way to get a big name country artist to record the songs. James contacted a producer who also happens to be a former Army band member.

“I contacted him just to see if he could give us some advice,” James said. “I knew him from when we were both in the Army band in the late ’80s.” The producer, Rogers Masson, eventually offered more than advice.

“My role in this project early on was primarily that of an advisor,” Masson said in an e-mail. “Dion and Jim have the vision and forward thinking that got this thing off the ground, and they contacted me to help carry it through to the market place.”

Masson’s brother, Maj. Tim Masson. was injured in Iraq last year and is recuperating in a hospital in San Antonio, he said.

“My interest is clearly a strong personal one, and there are many reasons why I am committed to this project,” Masson said. “I am a veteran and feel a responsibility to help fellow veterans. This project affords me the opportunity to do just that. Also, my father was a disabled veteran, so I have firsthand knowledge of what that means. If anyone thinks this project is not important, have them visit some troops in a VA hospital.”

James and Dion want the album’s proceeds to benefit disabled veterans.

“There have been other songs written about soldiers, but these songs are more accurate, more sincere because they are written by soldiers,” Dion said. “For a lot of people, the war is all about how many soldiers have died in Iraq. It’s not just about 1,500 soldiers who died. Every one of them had a story, and they should be remembered.”

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