USS Harpers Ferry
"First In Freedom"
Sailor Strums Stress Away on Deployment
Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes, Boxer Amphibious Ready Group  Public Affairs
ARABIAN GULF – Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Hill, from Steeleville, Ill., is an imposing man, stone eyed and walks with a straight back. He plays his guitar dressed in all black; black beanie, black shorts, and a black Harley Davidson sleeveless shirt.
“Playing guitar brings back memories of my dad, my old band - home. I went off to boot camp and I haven’t seen them since,” said Hill.
When he plays his guitar, he finds himself back at home, far away from the stresses of the Navy, and able to unwind after a long night of work.
He said writing lyrics to a song lets him leave his troubles on the paper and walk away. “It’s not terrible anymore. It’s a good feeling because I wrote them and it’s about my life. It’s the reason why I play guitar,” Hill added.
The creation of a song is a challenge putting emotions on paper and tying it into the guitar parts, said Hill. “You’re an inventor or a creator, creating something that no one else has done,” he said. “Trying to make my own genre or my own songs sound like myself and no one else.”
He plays his songs in front of Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) during command sponsored events like a picnic in Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates. “It was the first time I got up in front of a crowd in 2 1/2 years. It was a rush to get up and play in front of more than just friends,” said Hill.
The command had asked him to play but he didn’t think they really meant it. Hill said the next thing he knew, he was setting up and about to play.
“I see him playing songs and singing pretty often. He’s very good. I’ll see him playing after work,” said Culinary Specialist Cheemeng Her, a coworker. “He’s a good guy too, if you need help we all know you can ask Hill.”
Because Hill works nights in the Harpers Ferry galley, the odd hours allow him time for song writing.
“I’ve gotten better in the past four years in the Navy because I have more time to concentrate on my skill as a whole,” said Hill. “It’s a big difference having a band to carry you because you don’t have to carry yourself.”
Hill said he started a band called Rawhide with his dad and a couple of his friends. “We would go to local venues and play classic country. We played some new country and they would let me do some covers myself,” said Hill. A year and a half later, he started his own band and became the singer.
“I played with my band all the way up until I joined the Navy. When I joined the Navy I didn’t have my own equipment, so I bought a guitar,” said Hill. He joined the Navy to get money for school and to use the experience to build character.
“It’s got its up and downs. I definitely don’t regret it, I have learned a lot from the Navy. It’s been a pretty good experience so far,” said Hill.
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