Five Finger Death Punch Launches Major Campaign To Help Veterans

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In Five Finger Death Punch's new music video for "Wrong Side of Heaven," staggering statistics are displayed over emotional images of American soldiers on the battlefield abroad and veterans homeless on our streets. The powerful video is part of the Los Angeles-based metal band’s new campaign to bring awareness and help to our veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other post-war struggles. 

Among the stats: Nearly 5,000 veterans die by their own hands every year  - that’s one veteran every two hours. An estimated 460,000 veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Over 1.4 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless. More than 67 percent of homeless veterans served the U.S. for at least three years. Homeless vets spend an average of six years on the streets. And the divorce rate among military couples has increased 42 percent.

At the end of the seven-minute video (watch below), directed by Nick Peterson (who also directed the band’s “Coming Down” video), scrolls a comprehensive list of veteran organizations for soldiers to call if they need help, including Wounded Warriors, The Boot Campaign, Ride2Recovery, The Battle Buddy Foundation, Operation Second Chance, National Association of American Veterans, Code of Support, Silver Star Families of America, Heart Strings For Heroes, Soldiers Angels, Rock For The Fallen, and many more. The full list is also available at on the band’s official website.

As part of Five Finger Death Punch’s campaign, they will also offer veterans discounted tickets to their U.S. arena tour (with Volbeat, Nothing More, and Hellyeah), which kicks off Sept. 16 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The five-piece band — singer Ivan Moody, guitarists Jason Hook and Zoltan Bathory, bassist Chris Kael, and drummer Jeremy Spencer — is also inviting veterans for a special meet and greet at every show.

Additionally, the group has announced a call to action for their fans via a video announcement on their website encouraging to send in their fallen one’s dog tags. The band will use the tags to design a memorial wall that will be their backdrop on the fall tour. Post-tour, the dog tag memorial wall will be donated to a military museum to honor the fallen heroes who gave their life while serving our country. Five Finger Death Punch also plans to visit the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada today (Aug. 11) for a signing and to talk about the release campaign for this video.

Samaritanmag chatted with guitarist Zoltan Bathory about the inspiration behind the “Wrong Side of Heaven,” which is from their 2013 release, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1, the video campaign, and their passion to help veterans.

Where does your support of the military, and especially veterans with PTSD, stem from?

“I was born on a military base [in Hungary] and grew up on a military base because both of my parents were in the military. They were high-ranking officers and so my younger years, I was surrounded by soldiers at all times and it did affect the way I looked at things. Once I was living in America, I guess it stayed with me.  I always respected these guys. They are signing up for something that nobody else really wants to do.  Any of us goes to work every day and you don’t think, well, today I may die. But they do that every day. They put their lives on the line and I think a lot of people just take that for granted. They are a very special kind of person who is willing to do that job.”

It’s definitely something a lot of people take for granted. Just because you’re anti-war, doesn’t mean you should not support our military men and women too.

“I would blame the intellectual elite for that because an intellectual elitist is high and almighty. I’m not calling out any one particular person, but I’m calling out these kind of people who are highly educated and they have this world view of like, ‘How great it would be if it didn’t have weapons and it would be all peaceful and whatnot?’ Well, guess what? Look at our history; it’s years of violence and it’s not changing.  And, as long as there’s a single weapon in existence, we need our army and our men and women who are willing to die for their country.”

Yeah, it’s unrealistic to think the answer is simple, “No more war.”

“Exactly. Who we are as humans, we are not peaceful creatures.  We are hierarchical, we are fighting, we are pushing and shoving, you know, it’s pretty much the brutality of nature that, you know, we didn’t write the rules. So, as long as this exists in a way that it exists, there will be violence and the violence has to be controlled and equal.  Nobody wants to go to war, but it is naïve to think that you don’t need an army.”

Of course what you’re focusing on here with your campaign is bringing awareness to the fact that so many of our returning military men and women come back with debilitating PTSD and they are not getting the support or help they need. What do you think needs to happen to change the country’s m.o. here?

“Well, if I knew the exact answer for that, I would probably get a Nobel Prize. I think it starts with public awareness and that’s the reason we did this video. A lot of people are listening to us and I don’t want to tell the people what to think; we don’t intend to preach.  We can’t and we don’t want to preach, but I can present information because of the channels we have to the public.  We can have this information and then you take it how you take it.  So, that’s why we did this video because I have a lot of friends that are military, or are ex-military, and many of them have PTSD.  So, I see it with my own eyes, and I see how it happened, what happened, and I know their personal lives.

“And, what we came up with is to explore the fact that over 5,000 veterans kill themselves every year.  I mean, that’s a big problem.  Think about it, soldiers were bred to survive.  These are supposed to be the strongest people who can survive all circumstances. How bad has it got to be that these guys break down and take their own lives once they come home? And as soldiers, they were taught and bred and trained to fight.  For them to ask for help is an unnatural thing, you know? One big issue is that they don’t even know where to go, what to do, or how to ask for help.”

Can’t we place a lot of the blame on the military and government for not having enough resources to help veterans with PTSD in terms of psychiatric treatment or help with returning them to the workforce?

“Yeah, there is a big problem of allocation of resources. But, I can’t personally throw anybody under the bus or say who failed. But somebody failed I know the VA [Veterans Affairs] is trying, but does the VA have enough resources to help? Do they have enough budget? Does the media distort what is going on? There’s a lot of information that I don’t know we have to really point the finger. It’s a complex issue. That’s why we created this video and campaign to show there are these organizations out there that want to help.

“And, it’s coming on two tiers.  If somebody’s a veteran and watching the video, we want them to understand that we know what they’re going through and here is who can help you. Many of them are these are tough guys.  They’re not going to admit that there’s a problem.  They don’t want to admit that when there is a little noise and they jump and it’s because that’s what is happening to them.  Or, they brought home the war.  And, so many of them don’t want to admit what they’re going through because they’re afraid of repercussions — wondering, ‘Will it affect my ability to get a job?’ It’s murky waters.  A lot of soldiers don’t know that if you call these organizations you most likely will talk to another veteran who will understand. It’s an ongoing problem with the guys that I talk to.  They’re like, I don’t want to call the VA or I don’t want to call these organizations and talk to some guy that has no idea what I’m talking about. 

“So, that’s one part of this campaign — to show there is proper help for them. On the second tier, it’s for the general public because even as we’re starting these conversations, there’s still a lot of opposition.  A lot of people talk negatively about soldiers because of the war.  They don’t process the whole thing that, look the guy who went there didn’t make the policy.  He went there and followed orders.  His job is to follow orders.  We want the general public to look beyond what they feel about war and see the soldier and what they are going through. We have these kids in our hands that have PTSD and some brain injuries and they’re not getting help, and they aren’t even feeling supported by the general public much of the time.”

INTERVIEW CONTINUES AFTER THE VIDEO:

 

“Wrong Side of Heaven” chorus: "Arms wide open / I stand alone / I’m no hero / And I’m not made of stone / Right or wrong / I can hardly tell / I’m on the wrong side of heaven ' And the righteous side of hell."  

Tell is what the song “ Wrong Side of Heaven” all about.

“‘Wrong Side of Heaven’ is about exactly where these guys are, the soldiers. They sign up because they believed in something and they volunteered. And, the lyrics kind of fit that place. The wondering, the pondering, that, okay, I got orders that ‘I have to do this, but is it right? Is it wrong? I don’t know, but I have to do it.’ There is that problem with the public perception.  There are some saying thank you for what you did, and then there’s the other side of the public that says oh this is unacceptable and violent and this and that, and you know, people will get caught up in the middle. That’s part of PTSD, actually.  So, I believe that public opinion does contribute to their PTSD. If they came home and everybody hugged them and said, thank you, as a whole country, then they would feel honor.  But, there’s an opposition.”

Did the band come up with the treatment for the video or did you work closely with the director?

“We wrote the story and the stats are obviously coming from websites and various organizations. We’ve worked with him Nick Peterson before, and it was very important that the director also understood the task and the feeling that we’re trying to deliver. It’s very important to ask the video director understood the load that we were trying to deliver.  The load was—you want to punch America right in the chest.  So you understand.  So you remember.  So you don’t forget what happened.  We promised after Vietnam that this is never going to happen again and here we go.  And, we wanted to deliver that message and we wanted to hit people on an emotional level. Like, here, this is what happens.  So you can connect, you visually see what they go through, because if you don’t see it, you don’t learn it.”

Well, mission accomplished. The video certainly hit me on an emotional level.

“Thanks! That’s what we’re hoping for.” 

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