Voice of Veterans
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Voice of Veterans


Band Country Rock


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"Band members offer a voice for fellow vets' feelings through song"

While some folks know what their life's work is from the start, some never know and, then, others realize their mission in life at mid-life.

Joe Klass, 55, a composer, guitarist and lead vocalist with the band "Voice of Veterans," found his niche three years ago when he met Gregg Rodriquez who volunteered his musical talents to entertain veterans hospitalized at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Chicago.

Klass, himself in that center to combat post-traumatic stress disorder, joined Rodriquez to form "Voice," which added Jim Snow, Carl Petersen and manager Sam Radatz. An Ohio native and resident of Schaumburg, Klass served in Vietnam in the 101st Airborne Division in a Medivac Unit.

"Our task was to land in the jungle to retrieve wounded solders," Klass said. "Playing for veterans is healing for them and us. As therapy, there is a certain calmness afforded; I truly believe this is what God wants me to do now."

Using an example of how folks mistreated returning vets, Klass recalls how Petersen, a recipient of a Purple Heart, received a slap in the face. The job market wasn't open to vets, according to the musicians, because "they thought we were drug addicts. It was hard to get hired," he said.

Featured on Harry Porterfield's "Someone You Should Know," and on Kup's Purple Heart Cruise with David Kupcinet, Klass related that the group's mission is to entertain while educating folks about "our troops, their bravery and the hardships they face during and after combat."

The group, which has a CD titled "Welcome Home," recently took four first-place awards at the regional competition of the National Veterans' Administration Creative Arts Fest. They won in the original song category for Klass' "Welcome Home," in patriotic for "Soldiers of the Sand," in blues and country for "You Loving Me" and for best video.

Voice of Veterans will make an appearance during the Memorial Day "Cost of Freedom Tribute" that features the Vietnam Traveling Wall on display May 23 to 26 at Alexian Field in Schaumburg. Both Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg cooperate each year in offering gratitude to past and current military and public safety officers but this year organizers under Frank Donahue's leadership plan an extravaganza.

Festivities begin at 10 a.m. Friday, May 23 with Wayne Messmer's singing the national anthem. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Allan Lynch will give an address at 7 p.m. that evening. Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth takes the dais at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, May 24, after which guests participate in a candle lighted walk-by of the memorial.

Sunday's events will feature a 3 p.m. patriotic service with the Revs. David Hudak and Bill Cate presiding. Vietnam Special Forces Chaplain the Rev. James Behnke will speak. Voice performs at 4 p.m. The Memorial Day tribute begins at 11 a.m. with guest speaker Don Allen, co-owner of the "Cost of Freedom" replica. Voice performs around 6:45 p.m.

Satisfaction is a reward for Voice of Veterans, according to Klass. "Every time we play for the vets it's healing for them and for us," he said. "Songs communicate our feelings." - By Joanmarie Wermes, Daily Herald Columnist Published: 5/2/2008

"Voice of Veterans’ brings music to VA Medical Center"

Music filled the packed room when “Voices of Veterans” performed for the Stress Disorder and Outpatient Mental Health programs at North Chicago Veterans Administration Medical Center (NCVAMC)last week. It was the band’s monthly gig for the veterans.

The musicians have been performing at the center for more than two years and seem to get as much enjoyment out of the performance as their audience does. “Veterans are recognized and understood here — that’s what we don’t have enough of,” said Dr. John Bair, clinical psychologist.

“This is sacred space; this is healing ground. We want to savor it,” he said. “It’s a matter of staying alive, showing up, building trust, doing the trauma work and then doing the personal ambition and self expression work.” Bair noted that each week features different individuals or groups performing for the veterans.

The five members of Voice of Veterans, who play mostly their own original music, include Joe Klass, composer, lead vocalist and guitar player; Jim Snow, composer, bass and back-up vocals; Gregg Rodriquez, composer, back-up vocals, violin and mandolin; Carl Petersen, composer and drums; and Mike Painter, keyboards, guitar, slide, harmonica, mandolin, bouzouki, and bagpipes.

Songs such as “No Man Left Behind,” “The Condemned One,” “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” and “Old Soldiers Will to Survive,” on the group’s CD “Welcome Home,” send a message: “We do understand their sacrifices; they are not forgotten.” A new selection, “Soldiers of the Sand,” which the band played at the medical center last week, is dedicated to returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

“The band’s goal is to tour the United States, encouraging veterans to use music, poetry, expressive arts to bond with their fellow veterans as therapy within their programs,” noted Manager Sam Radatz who spent seven years in the service and a total of three years in Viet Nam. “Dr. Bair expresses the importance of opening up and allowing yourself to come back to life,” Radatz said. “One of his ways is through expressive arts.” “Our music is therapy for us,” said Klass, a native of Ohio, who served in the 101st Airborne Division, as part of a medivac unit in Viet Nam.

One of the founding member of the Voice of Veterans, along with Rodriguez, Klass was manager of a Chicago band, and from 1981 to 1988 was in a music ministry with his band called “Witness.” “Dr. Bair got me playing at the VA,” the musician said. “I was writing songs with Greg at first. Then Jimmy joined us and then Karl and Mike.” They started recording together in May 2006.

Snow, a Marine from 1966 to 1969, served in Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968. He is producer of the band’s “Welcome Home” CD and was part of the opening act for the Rock Band Deep Purple. Snow served as a bank vice president for 16 years. A musical entertainer at various PTSD programs at the VA Hospital, Rodriguez, who has volunteered at the hospital for the past eight years, was named an honorary veteran by veterans attending the Friday morning sessions. He studied classical violin at an early age, has expanded into other styles of music which came his way, and plays with several bands in the Chicago area.

Petersen, who was born on the south side of Chicago, served in Viet Nam as a grunt between 1970 and 1971 in the Danang and Chu Lai area. A Purple Heart recipient, he played drums with BlackWater Gold in early 1970 and backed up Styx and other top bands in the 1970s.

The band’s newest member, Mike Painter, is primarily a keyboard player but also plays other instruments as well, including guitar, mandolin, bagpipes, lap steel slide, and harmonica. A Viet Nam era vet, he served in the Air Force between 1975 and 1979 and is the second in a three-generation Air Force family.

In the words of one veteran, as noted on the Voice of Veterans Web site, “I was driving home one night in one of those flashback moods you just can’t shake so I popped the “Welcome Home” CD in the player. For a moment the words penetrated me, my eyes filled with water, but as quickly as it came also came a calmness and a great sense of pride and belonging.” - By JUDY R. LAZARUS, Great Lakes Bullitin

"ABC News Chicago "Someone you should know""

The Vietnam War ended 32 years ago, but in the minds of many veterans the conflict continued. Veteran Joe Klass writes songs to heal those old wounds and cope with post traumatic stress disorder.

"You don't do well with trauma when you're 18 or 19 years old. It's a job. And so you kind of get locked out from what normal kids do from 18 to 23. They go to school and learn how to be people. We missed all that," said Klass. Klass was a patient at the North Chicago VA Hospital when he met Gregg Rodriguez, a violinist who volunteered for the music therapy program.

"I am so grateful to be with these guys. I know they gave parts of their lives that they will never be able to regain back from being in war," said Rodriguez. The group Voice of Veterans began at the hospital as therapy for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Since 2005, Voice of Veterans has performed throughout the area from senior citizen homes to hospitals.

"Music helps us realize the great sacrifices of our veterans. It brings us to a level of appreciation..for real basic feelings of service and suffering that we often want to move away because they can be threatening," said Dr John Bair, hospital psychologist. "It's something I know I'm supposed to be doing...it's a peace about it...it's a piece of God about it..he's the one that gives me the music and the songs. It's a peaceful feeling...humbling that I would be a vessel," Klass said.

To learn more about the group and the availability of their CD log on to www.voiceofveterans.us - By Harry Porterfield March 13, 2007 (WLS)


Welcome Home 1
Welcome Home 2



Joe Klass

Born and raised in Ohio. He Served in the 101st Airborne Division Viet Nam (1970-1971) Joe was part of a Medivac Unit. Eagle Dust-off, Retrieving soldiers from the deep northern jungle of South Viet Nam. Joe was the road manager of a Chicago Band. From 1981 to 1988, he was in a music ministry, with his band called "Witness"

Jim Snow

Producer of the "Welcome Home" cd, Jim was a bank VP for 16 years in California. As a member of the U.S Marines from 1966-1969, Jim served in Hue during the TET Offensive of 1968. Jim was part of the opening act for the rock band Deep Purple

Gregg Rodriguez

Gregg studied classical violin at an early age, over the years expanding into every style of music that came his way. He has volunteed this musical talents for over eight years, entertaining veterans and guest of various PTSD programs. Gregg was named an Honorary Veteran by the veterans attending Friday morning PTSD sessions. Gregg was awarded a vest with the patches of all Uniformed services in Honor of Volunteer Service Gregg plays in several bands in the Chicago area.

Mike Painter

Mike, comes to us with a long musical background. He is, primarily, our Keyboard Player but also plays many other instruments which include: Guitar, Lap Steel Slide, Harmonica, Mandolin, Bouzouki, and Bagpipes (both the Great Highland Pipes and Scottish Small-pipes) Mike is also a Viet Nam era vet. Having served in the United States Air Force between 1975 and 1979, he is the second in a three generation Air Force family. His father, Lt. Col. (ret. Deceased) Milton M. Painter served in South Pacific during WWII and Korea, and his Son, Airman 1st class Ian C. Painter, who is currently serving as an F-16 maintenance Crew Chief in South Carolina. Mike is also a proud member of the Patriot Guard Riders.

Luke Legg

Luke is our newest member. Hailing from Algonquin, he has been playing music since he was seven. At only 17 years old,Luke is an accomplished musician who has an unrivaled passion for music. He is primarily a drummer, but he also plays and has been classically trained in guitar and piano. He also plays drums with the rock band, "Still Fallen". The Voice of Veterans is happy to have him as a member of the band. Luke was also rescently been named and "Honorary Vet" for his contributions to Veterans. Congratulations Luke, and Welcome Aboard!

Podcast link:

Mailing address:
Voice of Veterans
P.O.Box 1859
Kenosha,WI. 53141-1859

Phone Numbers:
Office - 262-652-3914
Sam's Cell - 262-914-4277
Joe's Cell - 224-406-1060