We had to do some MOS training the other week. The training was used to hone our skills as writers or broadcasters. The task for the writers was to pick a Soldier and do a feature on that Soldier. I picked my roommate, Sgt. Joshua Risner, who is my idol and the wind beneath my wings. Without further ado...
Tours provide inspiration for Soldier-musician
Story by Staff Sgt. Mark C. Burrell
After a long, hot day in the deserts of Northern Iraq, music drifts into the air. An upbeat guitar tempo is accompanied by a chorus of cheers, shouts and jubilation. A sea of about 2,500 servicemembers crowds the stage at the Mosul Airfield during a USO tour in July, 2003. This crowd isn’t cheering for a famous band, it’s cheering for one of its own. It’s cheering for Sgt. Joshua M. Risner who jumped at the chance to showcase his talents.
“The USO tour band had a set break and I jumped right on up there,” said Risner, a public affairs NCO, now attached to the 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, from Bryan, Texas. “I felt a connection to everybody out there in the crowd.”
Although Risner prefers small venues because they’re more personal, he plays anywhere and to anybody who will listen. After playing guitar or almost 14 and a half years, entertaining comes naturally to him.
Throughout Risner’s musical career he has gleaned inspiration from many sources. He is from Tennessee, near Nashville, the home of some of the country’s biggest musical influences. In his younger years, Risner was influenced by popular culture through TV.
“I watched MTV and wanted to be Slash from Guns N’ Roses,” he said in a thick Tennessee drawl. “He was the essence of cool.”
One of Risner’s largest sources of inspiration is the Photos by 1st Sgt. Anthony J. Martinez army. “The army is a catalyst for me,” he explained. “The more uncomfortable I am; the more creativity is sparked.” In 2009, there should be plenty of opportunities for the musician as he prepares to deploy for the second time to Iraq in 2009.
His main goal while deployed is to successfully accomplish his mission and take care of his Soldiers. In his downtime, Risner said, “I plan on creating a studio and continuing to make music while deployed.”
Thriving on chaos and drawing from his life experiences makes Risner a unique Soldier-musician. Still, he is realistic and doesn’t have visions of grandeur. “I don’t care about being famous or rich, I just want to be able to quit my day job and make a living off of my music,” said Risner with a toothy grin. Being a professional musician in the military isn’t always easy, but doing something that you love is priceless.