SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The heavens shone down on Veteran’s Park yesterday as Heart Songs for Veterans held a prayer vigil in memory of SPC Ryan T. Rhoads and bring awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. Rhoads a 2010 graduate of South Plainfield High School died earlier this year, and had been suffering from PTSD.
“Ryan was my son Cory’s babysitter and he was one of his heroes, being bullied is tough for any child, but having Ryan Rhoads in my son’s corner, was like having Batman in your corner,” said Jill Pavel, founder of Heart Songs for Veterans. “It was not a shock when Ryan entered the army, it made perfect sense to all of us that admired and respected his sense of leadership. I want to thank everyone that has come out here today to honor Army Specialist Ryan Rhoads.”
The days’ event was happy, but somber. There were a number of beautiful songs played in tribute to veterans. One of the songs was sang by Sara Ann Garrison a Heart Songs for Veterans Delaware teen ambassador made the trip from Delaware and sang “Temporary Home” with Cory Sing playing acoustic guitar.
Madison Miller, a South Plainfield resident and extended family member of the Rhoads family sang the National Anthem.
Cory Singer is another Heart Songs for Veterans Ambassador. Cory performed “From My Heart to Yours,” a song inspired by his friend Sgt. Eric Hunter. Hunter is a combat wounded veteran who stepped on an IED while deployed to Afghanistan. Hunter lost one of his legs and has endured over 61 surgeries and is treatment at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Sacred Heart Pastor Father John Alvarado gave the opening prayer for the day’s vigil. “Ryan reminds us today to take a chance and open our eyes, ears and hearts and be aware to recognize, reach out and help and make a difference,” said Father John. “For so many struggling with a darkness in their lives that they did not bring about themselves may we be part of the light that shines bright. So many who find themselves fighting on battlefields not out there, but within, may we be willing to see and to hear, to trust and believe in them.”
Also on hand was Jordan Green, who is a Heart Songs for Veterans teen ambassador from West Orange, NJ. Green sang “Amazing Grace.”
“I want to thank all of you that came out here today to support my family and other families that live with the devastation that can come from PTSD,” said Barbara Rhoads. “Not a day goes by that we don’t miss Ryan and think about the future he will never have. Our military protects us and suffers in silence also.” According to Rhoads, “the VA has determined without proper treatment on average 22 veterans and service members take their lives each day because they live and suffer from this disorder.”
“The purpose of the vigil was to raise awareness about PTSD,” said Heart Songs for Veterans founder Jill Pavel. Heart Songs for Veterans was founded in 2013. “We use music as a vehicle to promote hope, awareness and funding,” said founder Jill Pavel. “Music artists from across the country from all genres of music donate their new song or album releases to my company and royalties are paid to veterans or combat wounded veteran organizations.” Heart Songs for Veterans along with other organizations such as Hope Farms for Veterans combined forces in setting up prayer vigils across the nation to bring awareness, education and support to the families who have lost their loved ones.
The Veterans Crisis hotline is (800) 273-8255, Press 1 and their website is www.veteranscrisisline.net
“Our hope today is through awareness we can identify the signs and help a veteran get the treatment they need to lead a fulfilling life,” said Rhoads. “If one veteran is saved by today’s event we have made progress.”
In closing, Sara Ann Garrison sang "God Bless the USA."