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VFW Magazine February 2018 : Page 20

PHOTO BY TONY HOLMES Calvin Simon visits the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., for the first time in April 2017. Simon served in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in 1967 and 1968 as an artilleryman. performed in Detroit in Simon’s first show back, and when fans were “on top of the limousine” and trying to get to the band members, Simon said, he wanted to reach for his .45. “I’ve been back since ’68, and right today, I sleep with my M-16 across my chest — even though it’s not there — that’s the position I’m most comfortable in,” Simon said. After leaving Parliament Funkadelic in 1977, Simon said he reclaimed his faith and chose to return to his gospel roots. He launched his own record label, Simon Sayz Recordings, in 2004 and sub-sequently distributed his first solo album, “Share the News,” which reached No. 21 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart. PHOTO COURTESY OF CALVIN SIMON As Simon prepared to tour for that record, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer next to his vocal cords. In 2012, Simon’s wife was diagnosed with bone cancer. His music career again was put on hold. It wasn’t until 2016 that a dream reig-nited his career. Amid a blue sky and rays of sunshine stood two robed figures — one in white, which Simon recognized as Jesus Christ, and one in gray. “I was starting to wake up from the dream, struggling because I didn’t want to wake up… [and I] saw a lyric, and the lyric said, ‘Don’t hesitate, it’s not too late to ask Jesus Christ to be your lord and savior,’” Simon said. “And from that lyric and that dream, the CD was born.” One song included on that album, “It’s Not Too Late,” was “A Soldier’s Story,” which Simon wrote as a way to connect with today’s veter-ans who might be struggling with sui-cidal thoughts. “When you suf-fer from PTS [post-traumatic stress], if you haven’t been there, you can’t understand it,” said Simon, who was officially diag-nosed with PTS roughly 20 years ‘Soulful Super Group’ Inducted into Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame ago. “When I wrote Parliament Funkadelic was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the song, I started thinking about my 1997. Vietnam War veteran Calvin Simon was one of the 16 men inducted with the band and said the honor proved that the band’s peers gave them situation.” “the recognition that we had earned.” The opening lyr-“We had to do things when it wasn’t conventional or traditional,” ics, “Once upon a time, I was one of Simon said, “But we did what we felt was right, and in the beginning, we you,” let veterans had real good messages for people.” know they’re not Prince, who inducted the “soulful super group,” said in his speech, that “they built Parliament Funkadelic and changed the world.” alone, according to “There was something futuristic about Parliament Funkadelic, and that Simon, who said faith brought him was only fitting since they played a huge role in creating the future of music,” Prince said. to the other side of Simon was one of the group’s founding members, alongside George his PTS. Clinton, Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Grady Thomas and Ray Davis. They orig -“Some days are better than oth-inally called themselves The Parliament, but as the group’s sound evolved, the name changed to Parliament Funkadelic. In that form, the band gar -ers,” Simon said, nered 15 Gold and seven Platinum albums. “but it’s gotten to a point where I can control it pretty much now.” USING FAITH TO MANAGE STRESS Simon said he has had symptoms of PTS since 1968 because of “the horrific things” he went through and witnessed in Vietnam. “When you come home, those memo-ries come with you,” Simon said. “First, you try drugs and whiskey trying to kill that feeling, but you can’t. You can’t ever forget the memories and the shame, sometimes, of the memories [of what] you had to do.” When in those types of situations in a war, Simon said, there is a certain amount of adrenaline and fear. “There’s a feeling that comes with that,” Simon said. “It’s like a drug almost, when you wake up in the morning like you want to hurt something, you want to see something flatter, because you’ve got to feed that monster because that’s what you had been dealing with.” But rededicating his life to religion has helped Simon manage the effects of PTS, allowing him to “turn to prayer when things get too bad.” “That has helped me tremendous-ly,” Simon said, “and by me having that faith... [and] seeing the results of my faith in Him, that’s my stability right there, where I was trying to handle everything else myself before.” J EMAIL 20 • VFW  • FEBRUARY 2018

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