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Hospital corpsman nurtures musical dream in Iraq

17 May 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannon D. Book knows he's destined for greatness after his tour in Iraq is over.  If he has his way, you won't read about it in military history or even medical journals.  All you'll have to do is tune him in on your radio. 

Book, deployed to Iraq with 1st Tank Battalion's Scout Platoon, has taken his musical talents to coffee houses and bars.  The Navy hospital corpsman has strummed guitars, picked backbeats on the bass, tickled the ivories on piano and belted out vocals as a singer.  It's just that he wants to do it all over again.  He dreams of stepping back into the hot spotlight.

"I'm a professional musical artist," said Book, a 30-year-old from East Bernstadt, Ky. "God gave me a talent and there's no use in having a talent and not having it known."

Book and his guitar make regular visits to coffee houses in the San Diego area when he isn't deployed.  There, he generates regular customers who come see him play.

Book said that's the only way to get his face and voice out in the public.

"I play at a coffee house in Chula Vista and anywhere from 70-100 people show up just to see me play," Book said.  "It's pretty cool.  I've played for bars, but I stick to coffee shops."
Book's musical career began during his elementary years when he thought if playing one musical instrument was good, playing multiple instruments must be better.

"I've been playing music since fifth grade, but I've been playing the guitar for 13 years" Book said.

"I bounced around all the instruments because I just thought it was cool to be able to play all of them," added Book, whose primary instrument is a Gresth Historical Acoustic guitar. 

Music is part of Book's soul.  His pulse has a rock rhythm.  It has become second nature and simply part of his life, pursuing a lifelong dream.

"I just love music and it comes natural to me," Book said. "I'm able to integrate all the sounds in a song now."

Still, playing other people's songs wasn't enough.  Book added another skill to his expanding repertoire.  He wrote his own songs; he hopes listeners will dial-in on a radio one day.

"I've written 16 songs, but I think eight of them are worth putting on a CD," Book said.  "But I am my worst critic."

Book said most of his music reflects his childhood experiences and his military service.

Book knows the difficulty he faces when it comes to the music business.  Time and money are two things he needs, but is short on.  He makes up for it with persistence.  The next step, he said, is moving from playing live for small crowds to signing a record deal.

"If it's going to happen, it's just a matter of being discovered," Book said. "The next step would be getting picked up by RCA Records."

It's not a dream that's come without costs.  Book said there's no way he could perform on stage, perform in his duties and be a father to his two-year-old son Owen without the help of his wife, Susan.

"I'm the luckiest husband in the world because Susan understands my dream and love for music," he said. "It just takes a lot of time and money, but I won't ruin my family for it."

Book's found a way to keep up his musical skills even in the field.  He said he plays for the Marines, something that lifts their spirits.

"Being a corpsman, I'm responsible for applying medicine, which falls under troop welfare," Book said. "Music sooths the savage beast, and I like being the venue that takes people away from stresses like combat."

Cpl. Mike S. Bailey, a 22-year-old assaultman from Belle Chase, La., and member of Book's platoon has taken a shine to his tunes and wants to get involved with his talents when he returns to the United States.  He wants to open a bar and to partner-up with Book.

"I know Doc and I love him," Bailey said.  "I want him to be my headliner for my bar."

Book may have stars in his eyes, but promised not to let it take over his big heart when he makes the big leagues.

"I don't play music for the fame or money, but to be recognized for what I do because I want people to feel what I feel," Book explained.  "I won't forget where I came from because it was too painful to forget."

Book hopes to play with renowned musicians like Dave Matthews and Matchbox 20.

"There are so many great musicians out there," Book said  "I just wouldn't mind playing with groups like 'Three Doors Down,' 'Staind' and 'Nickelback.'"