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‘We Could Kind Of Forget We Were Getting Shot At’ – Fan And Veteran Elijah Licano Used Tech N9ne’s Music To Cope With War [Fan Feature]

Published: April 7, 2014 in Tech N9ne by

Elijah Fan Feature

Human beings are remarkable creatures. Despite whatever adversity is thrown in front of us, we always seem to find a way to get through it. Maybe music was invented to help that process. We’ll never know the original intent behind it, but as evidenced by the story we were told from fan Elijah Licano, music serves a purpose far beyond the notes and the silence that falls between them.

The e-mail we received from Elijah tells of events unimaginable to the everyday citizen, a horrific story of events that took place in the Iraq War.

It was in February of 2005, that I bear witness to the marring effect’s war leaves within the modern warrior. The fear of death was inevitable in the heat of the moment. Traveling in an un-armored Humvee, I was fourth from the rearmost vehicle in the convoy. My Lieutenant, Brian Genau occupied the rear of our convoy. We traveled in this order until the Lt’s vehicle became a target. It was the beginning of a long year for most of the soldiers in that convoy.

I heard radio transmission stating one of our vehicles had been struck by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Moments after the chatter, every vehicle instinctively surrounded the incapacitated Hummer, resembling stars in orbit around a massive black hole. One of the first to the wreckage was our medic, tending to a critically wounded soldier. I glanced over to my right and noticed Lt. Genau lifeless with a redundant IV protruding from his arm, shifting the solution in the IV bag to a bloody tint.

As Brian lay there deceased, I became full of rage and sadness trying to aid the medic with the soldier that had become mangled and bloodied from the impact and rolling of the vehicle. I noticed he had a broken right leg and splinted the fracture as the medic frantically tried to comfort the severely injured soldier.

My hands trembled as I attempted to load a magazine of 30 rounds into my assault rifle looking to clear the landing zone for the medevac. I surveyed the distant outstretches of desert landscape in hopes of locating the trigger man either to eliminate or to capture the individual who murdered my friends.

With no enemy in sight, I zeroed in on the chaos, standing there angrily, looking for someone to blame. My squad leader Hayes notices my discomfort and approached my position. “I know you’re mad,” he said, “So focus that anger on the enemy, and not yourself.” I never quite understood what he meant until many years after that day. Personally, I think he meant for me retain my emotions enough not to become complacent with feeling responsible or helpless. Moments after he spoke to me, I heard massive pulsating helicopter blades getting louder and churning sand in its wake.

Elijah would look back and consider this incident to be the pinnacle of his war experience. After witnessing the loss of his friend in such sudden and dramatic fashion, it became impossible to use disassociation as a sanity device to cope with the horrors around him. In fact, the gravity of his situation became clearer than ever: his friend was robbed from his family and Elijah’s family awaited

When I had time to think about it, which wasn’t much, I realized who they were on the ground and who I’d lost and I just kept thinking about my kids and my family at home and their kids and their families and the things I used to take for granted like swinging my son on the set or throwing the ball even though he couldn’t catch it.

After that incident, Elijah was placed in the front of the convoy and swore he would never let something like that happen under his watch. True to his resolve, he made it through the rest of his time as a soldier without losing another comrade in arms.

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Soldiers surround “The Buffalo,” a vehicle used to recover and clear IEDs

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Elijah and close buddy Dan Isler

One thing that provided sanity throughout the incessant heat, the day-to-day uncertainty and the unpredictable bouts of combat was music, namely the songs of Tech N9ne. Elijah breaks down the transformative effect that Tech’s music would have on him and the other troops:

I’d play “Midwest Choppers” and things would get good for everybody around us. It was just good vibes. It was always good vibes. How we could kind of forget that I was getting shot at sometimes or blown up. It was always good. Everything about it was good. The bad stuff, the good stuff, I could relate to it, I could understand it. It wasn’t the losing your dog under your four wheel, not to stereotype country or anything, I just don’t relate to that. I relate to what Strange has to offer and still to this day I do.

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“The first of many encounters with improvised explosive devices and a 1113 track vehicle I drove fire some missions. You can see the RPG cage mangled from the detonation. No one was injured in that incident.”

Luckily Elijah made it through the gunfire, explosions and the daily question of “Fan or Foe?” to return home and raise his children in peace…well, relative peace. The residual effects of combat and the survival instincts that were hardwired into his psyche often present difficulties in commonplace situations. All it takes is a door slam for Elijah’s combat reactions to kick into full gear:

I’ll be upstairs for instance and if the garage door is open and someone comes in there’s a clear airway so the door slams really loud and shakes the house. If I’m sleeping or awake I instantly think “car bomb,” because when a car went off about 300 yards away, you could feel it while you’re sleeping and you can hear it. Doors when they slam I think it’s a little bomb somewhere. A tire shredded for instance off of a semi when I was in Colorado and I had to have my buddy pull over because I was freaking out. It’s not anything that I’m ashamed of it’s just something I can’t control. I don’t know how to control it.

The post-combat stress and disorder was something that was captured so aptly in Tech N9ne’s song “The Noose” from Tech N9ne Collabos – Welcome To Strangeland. When Elijah heard the song he, like so many soldiers beside him, related to the song immediately.

When I first listened to “The Noose”, the experience brought so many emotions out. Tears, happiness. Everything he says I can relate to and he went on the line. I feel like he put his career, name, reputation out there on the line. Most people don’t like to support the troops. Some people do it. Either way Tech is the kind of guy who’s going to do whatever the fuck he wants. Aaron Yates is the bomb and I like the way he approaches his music because he doesn’t hold anything back unless he has to and there’s not really much he holds back. It brought a lot of sad memories and a lot of sad things but it also exposed a lot of stuff, if you’re not a soldier it exposes you to that. I can recite the whole song. It’s one of my favorites. The song constantly brings tears to my eyes. Let’s just put it that way.

When asked what he would say to Tech N9ne, Elijah had this to say:

I would just tell him to keep up the good work. Do what you do because it makes people in bad spots do good things. I’m a parent of three and my parents know who Tech is and I’m going to spread Tech’s goodness around. That’s what I’d tell him. I’m proud of him and I’m glad he is who he is and there ain’t a person else I think that could do what he’s done in my life. For me I think that means a lot.

For some reason, Strange fills a void in my life that seems indescribable. Despite my children and the things one should find fulfilling, I’m left questions and regrets. The music lets me know I’m not alone.

Much love to Elijah Licano for sharing his story with us
and to all the soldiers for their bravery and sacrifice.

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Elijah and his children from left to right: Kortney, Treyton and Gabriel

  • – Do you have any friends that have served in combat? How did that experience affect them?
  • – Did you know about the effects of post-combat stress as Elijah described?

Leave your comments in the comments section below.

  • Ashley Ann Marie Maschka

    My uncle is a vet and is currently dealing with ptsd, I can only hope that he finds an outlet, something to help him the way Strange has helped you. Thank you for your service sir.

  • David_Francis

    I too was in that convoy where we last saw Lt. Geinau and Sgt. Garceau. It was my first time “outside the wire”, other than the initial convoy into Iraq. I remember 4 clues in quick succession that it was about to get ugly. The last clue was the IED itself. I stuck my head out of the window and looked straight down at it. I was riding in an old “deuce and a half” with no armor. I had no radio. I had no idea if others were seeing the same thing I was seeing and no way to let the rest of the convoy know. I was also hauling the most dangerous cargo in the convoy, a load of oxygen and acetylene bottles. I held my breath as I watched in the rear view mirror until I thought that we were passed. I remarked to my driver, “If we stopped for everything they told us in training we’d never get anywhere I reckon!” Suddenly the truck became lighter to carry down the road as the shock wave passed through us. “IED!” we both shouted. I looked back at the mirror just in time to see the Lieutenant’s humvee go spinning off of the road.
    Everyday I wished I had done something. I really was along for the ride on that trip. I wished I had told the driver to stop. If we stopped the rest of the convoy would have figured it out. Our stopping distance would have gotten us passed the danger zone and following behind us was “Tugboat” an armored wrecker, the most survivable vehicle in our convoy.
    Most of my time on deployment was spent i the motorpool. The staging area was between the motorpool and the barracks. At the end of my day Alpha Co. was usually getting ready for their nightly mission. I would always walk slowly through the staging area to see everyone who was going out that night. It might be the last time I see some of them. Even if we didn’t speak, I prayed for all of them.
    PTSD is a real problem. Every case is different. I spent most of my time in the camp, where artillery was a common threat. I never wore hearing protection because I wanted to hear everything. I was like Radar O’Reilly on M*A*S*H. I could hear the tell tale thump in the distance that said mortars were coming in. I would also be the first to recognize the sound of rockets coming in. Since coming home I can’t seem to shut that off. I have to wear earplugs a lot. I hear everything all the time and it’s hard to sort out. In a restaurant, I hear every conversation at every table and it’s hard to understand the people I’m with. If I go to the store, I hear every beep at every register and every cart with an off balance wheel. It’s really menacing and people wonder why I’m crouchy so much. I’m dealing with it better than I used to. Earplugs spend more time in my pocket now but I’m still learning too.

  • Joshua Dustyhorn

    I just met this guy on omegle. hes awesome and much love to all the soldiers who put their lives on the line

  • roflmao2132 .

    I also met him on omegle, I find it incredible that music has that affect on you. Really touching stuff thanks for sharing your story with the world. The noose is a great song by the way, songs tend to carry so much more meaning when the composer really believes in what he’s saying. and its evident Tech9 do. Peace and good luck in future endeavours. From the aussie guy on omegle

  • David_Francis

    Music used to help get me through the day on deployment too. It seemed one of the few things I was able to do right on deployment was sing. We had an iPod in the shop with an amp, that through the day would play rap, metal, country, rock and patriotic tunes. I would sing along with the songs that sounded happy and reminded me of good times. I sang with the worship team at chapel and 1SG Tadman, Chief Mclain and some others used to compliment me on my voice. I never quite knew how to take that because it didn’t seem like I could do anything else right so compliments seemed awkward but encouraging.
    Music is a help since coming home too. I grew up in the 70’s & 80’s, so I listen to a lot of music from that time. It helps my head to reset to a time before I knew anything about the military and less about war. My kids think it’s funny that I always want quiet in the house but the radio is always loud in the car.
    A band from the 70’s & 80’s that I never understood until after deployment was Pink Floyd. I used to hate their sound until after deployment. Now they make sense. The members of the band were small children in England during WWII. Roger Waters’ father was a British soldier killed in action. Their own house was lost in the bombing of Britain. PTSD stuck with them and shaped their sound. They became famous for making common ordinary sounds become menacing. One day after deployment I heard a Pink Floyd song when suddenly it clicked, “That’s it!” That’s what the world sounds like to me everyday. Finally I had a way to describe it that non veterans could somehow understand.
    PSTD is caused when the chemicals produced in a “fight or flight” moment become so intense or so prolonged that other neuron-pathways, less essential to the moment, are burned out. The individual can’t function again in civilization the way that he used too. The parts of his brain that allowed that have been short circuited or shut off. It doesn’t have to be permanent damage though. Music is an important ingredient to the Rx for PTSD. Music is one of the few things that requires a person to use every part of his brain and the best part is that it’s fun. We may never be the people we used to be but we are who we have become. What we have become may again be active, productive and even peaceable members of our communities.

  • David_Francis

    Music used to help get me through the day on deployment too. It seemed
    one of the few things I was able to do right on deployment was sing. We
    had an iPod in the shop with an amp, that through the day would play
    rap, metal, country, rock and patriotic tunes. I would sing along with
    the songs that sounded happy and reminded me of good times. I sang with
    the worship team at chapel and 1SG Tadman, Chief Mclain and some others
    used to compliment me on my voice. I never quite knew how to take that
    because it didn’t seem like I could do anything else right so
    compliments seemed awkward but encouraging.
    Music is a help since
    coming home too. I grew up in the 70’s & 80’s, so I listen to a lot
    of music from that time. It helps my head to reset to a time before I
    knew anything about the military and less about war. My kids think it’s
    funny that I always want quiet in the house but the radio is always loud
    in the car.
    A band from the 70’s & 80’s that I never understood
    until after deployment was Pink Floyd. I used to hate their sound until
    after deployment. Now they make sense. The members of the band were
    small children in England during WWII. Roger Waters’ father was a
    British soldier killed in action. Their own house was lost in the
    bombing of Britain. PTSD stuck with them and shaped their sound. They
    became famous for making common ordinary sounds become menacing. One day
    after deployment I heard a Pink Floyd song when suddenly it clicked,
    “That’s it!” That’s what the world sounds like to me everyday. Finally I
    had a way to describe it that non veterans could somehow understand.
    PSTD
    is caused when the chemicals produced in a “fight or flight” moment
    become so intense or so prolonged that other neuron-pathways, less
    essential to the moment, are burned out. The individual can’t function
    again in civilization the way that he used too. The parts of his brain
    that allowed that have been short circuited or shut off. It doesn’t have
    to be permanent damage though. Music is an important ingredient to the
    Rx for PTSD. Music is one of the few things that requires a person to
    use every part of his brain and the best part is that it’s fun. We may
    never be the people we used to be but we are who we have become. What we
    have become may again be active, productive and even peaceable members
    of our communities.

  • Elijah Malachi Licano

    Francis BROTHER! I LOVE YOU MAN!

  • David_Francis

    Aw gee. I hoped you would see that. It’s good to see you here. I hope too that everything is going well with you.

  • elle

    i met you on omegle today and unfortunately my connection froze.. you were typing then..and i was about to tell you how treyton looks so cute and that kortney seems like a smart girl.. i didn’t want our chat to end this way though… anyways you are such an amazing father with a great story and such beautiful kids.. you opened my eyes to some aspects and thank you for that.. i just wish i could reread everything you said one more time… and maybe to continue our chat 🙂 good luck with whatever comes next in your life and may god guide all of us to the right path. stay strong <3

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