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Naples Philharmonic Honors Purple Heart Recipients at Patriot Pops Concert
Carolyn Long --  Angels Over America Carolyn Long -- Angels Over America
Naples, FL
Sunday, May 30, 2010

Conductor Stuart Chafetz
by Carolyn K. Long

Friday's "Star Spangled Spectacular" at The Naples Philharmonic honored two special guests: Purple Heart Recipients Staff Sergeant José Pequeño, the most severely wounded Iraqi vet, and Lance Corporal John T. Doody, also seriously injured fighting in Iraq. Guest conductor Stuart Chafetz introduced the wheelchair-bound veterans to the audience, who responded in unison with a spontaneous, enthusiastic standing ovation.

"It was a pleasure to have them, and the audience was proud and excited about having them," said Myra Daniels, Founder and CEO of "The Phil." "It brings war to people in a way that you could never do any other way. Their stories and their stamina; their faith and desire to heal -– It was the most moving thing I've experienced."

"When the orchestra played 'The Marine Corps Hymn,' my son smiled and followed the music closely," said Nellie Bagley of her son José, who can neither move nor talk. "The look on his face was unbelievable!"

"José was very musically talented; he absolutely loved music," his mother said. "He played the saxophone, the trumpet, the keyboard and drums. When he got hurt, I felt if he could react to anything, it would be to music. I was told it would help to integrate the brain, so I have played all kinds of music for him ever since. This concert at the Philharmonic was fabulous! It was a healing time for my son; for my entire family."

Ms. Daniels concurs: "I told them both that music is a great healer. Doctors all over the world know that. And it is an international language."

"JT enjoyed the concert immensely," said John T. Doody's mom, Chris Ott. "He was deeply moved by the tribute to all the services, and especially "The Marine Corps Hymn' and 'Semper Fi.' The entire Philharmonic experience was absolutely wonderful. The conductor was having so much fun up there that the audience could not help but have fun too."

"It was all great!" JT said. " I am now a fan of the Philharmonic!"

Conductor Stuart Chafetz is famous for engaging audiences in his concerts. During the performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, best known for its climactic volley of cannon fire and ringing chimes, he arranged for audience members holding inflated paper bags to burst them on command. "He would point to different areas of the audience, and they would break their paper bags in place of cannons," said Myra Daniels. "It was uproarious! The audience loved it!"

"The evening was exhilarating!" said Ms. Bagley. "And there are no words to say how we felt during the standing ovations. Sometimes you go through things for so long you feel alone; you don't think people care, or that they forget, and everyone there let me know that people care what happened to my son; people are behind us. It gave me reassurance that what José did was not in vain. It was awesome. I was crying, and I don't cry."

"We all had tears in our eyes," said Mrs. Ott, "Seeing the people stand up and clap for what our sons did for the Country."

José volunteered for Iraq to ensure the safe return of the younger men in his National Guard Unit to their families, though he had already completed his military service in the Marine Corps. At 29, he left his wife and three children and job as the youngest police chief in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, to defend his Country. The insurgent grenade that blasted Pequeño out the door of his Humvee in March 2006 blew away half his skull. His long journey back eventually brought him, his mother and sister Elizabeth from their home in NH to Tampa and the James A. Haley VA Polytrauma Center. He was introduced to the Country at last year's Memorial Day Concert on the Mall in Washington, DC.

JT's family also left their home and jobs in Idaho to give their son a home near his doctors in Tampa.

Both men now live near the James A. Haley VA Polytrauma Center in Tampa, FL. Though neither soldier was expected to survive his injuries, the dedication of their families and doctors has enabled them to progress beyond anyone's expectations – and raised the hopes of many other severely injured vets.

Still, they are in need of support in order to continue making such steady progress living with their families.

A "Purple Heart" Memorial Weekend Picnic and Concert are being held this weekend in Naples to raise money for these wounded warriors and their families. http://www.FGCU.org)

"We have the resources to restore some semblance of dignity and independence to them and their families for all they have given. This weekend will help to do that—and continue the wonderful job of The Philharmonic to lift their spirits!" says event organizer and advocate for the disabled Gary Kluckhuhn.

The veterans are being honored for their service at both Sunday's Picnic from 12-4 pm, at Renaissance Village, and at Monday's Memorial Day Concert at 6:00 pm, at Cambier Park, featuring country music star Michael Peterson and Gospel singer Clint Brown. Mayor Bill Barnett will MC Monday's Concert. Proceeds from the suggested $30 concert donations will help purchase a home for José Pequeño. (http://www.FGCU.org)
News Media Interview Contact
Name: Carolyn Long
Title: Author, Executive Producer
Group: Angels Over America
Dateline: Annapolis, MD United States
Direct Phone: 443-250-0222
Main Phone: 443-250-0222
Cell Phone: 443-250-0222
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