by SC Reporter Teresa Vazquez
photo by SC Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen
A message from the Lord prompted veteran Dan Perkins to establish his foundation Songs and Stories for Soldiers which aims to help veterans “make it safely to dawn,” says Perkins.
As he waited on the side of the road of Alligator Alley after an accident, with foggy vision and a racing heart, Perkins had one clear message on his mind– he knew it was the Lord speaking to him.
“You know the proverbial my life flashed before my eyes,” Perkins said. “About 15 minutes later things cleared up, I could see, I could breathe, the car started, and the phone started working, but there was a message in my brain that said: I need you to take care of my veterans.”
Perkins began to search for a way to fulfill the message. He soon realized that there were certain areas that the Veterans Administration was not addressing in a significant way. The gap consisted of mental issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, sleep deprivation, and suicide prevention.
After finding that gap, he wondered how he could fill it. Perkins began to work with doctors and professionals that specialized in these topics. He soon came to learn about the high numbers of suicide cases among veterans which according to the American Addiction Centers average 20 a day.
Perkins learned that sleep deprivation and the nighttime played a big role in the onset of suicidal thoughts. He saw the link and knew that if he could get soldiers to sleep and recharge, he could save lives.
This resulted in the foundations production of its signature mp3 player systems that help veterans make it through the night. The mp3 players come loaded with two novels and playlist of songs curated to help veterans reach ground-level sleep, allowing for healing and regeneration to take place.
“That is the time when the night terrors come when the anxiety and the frustration and abandonment and loneliness, all come to the forefront,” Perkins said. “Our mission is to try and help the soldier get safely to dawn. So, when they have that anxiety, they won’t reach for a gun, they’ll reach for the mp3 player.”
The foundation has given out almost 20,000 mp3 players since its establishment. They started off in a few facilities like the Veterans Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, but have since then extended into another 131 treatment facilities.
On a visit to the participating Walter Reed National Military Center, Perkins was stopped by a Vietnam War veteran who shard that he had tried “everything legal and illegal” to get a good night’s sleep, but nothing worked until he received one of the players. He said it granted him more nights of restful peaceful sleep than he gathered in years.
Perkins wants people to understand the weight that sleep deprivation puts on veterans. It isn’t only about the physical injuries that come from their service.
Having served, Perkins is no stranger to the veteran life. For the past several years he has done what it takes to help his fellow brothers and sisters, which he believes the nation treats as second-class citizens.
“It takes a special person to decide to put their life at risk to defend their country and it would be nice if the country always reciprocated, but it doesn’t,” Perkins said. “So, I have a responsibility to do whatever I can try and help as many soldiers as I can make it safely to dawn.”