Bay Area singer part of 'Battle Cry: Songs of America's Heroes' to help military vets

DANVILLE, Calif. (KTVU) -- A Bay Area musician is one of the artists featured on a new album that aims to help veterans cope with the transition from the battlefield to civilian life.

John Preston is a Danville singer and songwriter who completed combat tours in Iraq in the U.S Marines Corps. He said he knows all to well the sacrifices made and the pain suffered by veterans.

Preston is a contributor to "Battlecry: Songs of America's Heroes," a 12-track album that attempts to help military vets coping after returning from abroad. The album is now on sale through Amazon, iTunes and other online stores. Proceeds from the album sales will go to a veterans support group called the Valkyrie Initiative.

Preston said one of his coping mechanisms is through his music and his  songs are a personal catharsis.

"It's about the battles that we deal with," Preston said. "I came back 12, 13 years ago and it's still in my brain. It hasn't gone away."

Two years ago, he made a music video about the life of a fellow Marine who was killed in Afghanistan, leaving behind his young wife.

Preston has a new mission, joining fellow combat vets on an album called "Battlecry."

He said he is not trying to glamorize or whitewash his experience serving in the military.

"It's not completely about hope," he said. "It's about the people we've lost. It's about battling post traumatic stress. It's about a veteran wanting to kick back and enjoy life a little bit after we get back."

Preston joins Scooter Brown, Ryan Weaver and others on the new album to raise money to help veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and help prevent suicide.

It's estimated that as many as 22 veterans a day kill themselves.

"People in the veteran community have trouble showing our emotions," he said. "We're not good at projecting out and saying 'I'm hurting.'"

For many, that pain can go unnoticed.

Preston's older brother, Michael, was also a combat veteran and police officer who suffered from PTSD for 20 years but his relatives missed the warning signs of suicide.

"I missed it," he said. "I missed it. I'd been publicly doing this for 2 1/2 or 3 years and I missed it."

Michael took his own life at the age of 42, leaving behind a wife and children.,/p>

"My brother left four kids (including) a 7 year old who's going to ask me now what his daddy was like."

John was on the road in Sacramento with a phtographer documenting his music adventure when he got a phone call about his brother's death. He insisted the photographer keep rolling to capture the raw intensity of that moment.

"Something told me then that I could utilize that to hopefully help someone down the road."

The video of him getting that call is included in his music video. It's John's contribution to the veterans album in a song he wrote and performed called "Superman Falls."

"He literally altered and changed so many people's lives but inside he was ripped apart," John said of his brother.

The songs from "Battlecry" not only help vets express their inner turmoil, but help the rest of us understand it.

By KTVU anchor Ken Wayne.

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