SGT. KELLY BALLARD, MP — BREAKING BAD WITH AN M-16 “IN COUNTRY” COUNTRY SINGER BREAKING HEARTS BACK HOME WITH A GUITAR
By RICK KERN
Sat, May 25, 2013
And stand out she does, with a whopping twenty-one-plus thousand Facebook “Likes” and twin nominations in this year’s Georgia Music Awards. As a Military Police Officer (MP) in the Army National Guard, she may spend her time in uniform running in GIs behaving badly, but her first love, performing as a singer/songwriter, has her in the running for both Best Female Country Artist and Best Music Video. “Being on stage or involved with anything musically is where I feel most at home or more myself,” the 26-year-old explains. “I love music because it speaks to me. It allows me to escape the everyday life, and paves a way for me to be able to share my experience with others whom I may have never met personally.”
Additionally, Kelly won the title of Today's Country Idol 2012 last year through WYNR 102.5 out of Brunswick, GA, and has become adept at juggling interviews with journalists and fielding questions during radio interviews. It’s an acquired taste, but a great problem to have for a gal whose goal is to find a spot at the top of the Country Music food chain. “I love a little bit of every Genre of music,” she reveals, “however, Country is my favorite and best suites me as an artist. I love how Country music really tells a story and a story I can relate to being born and raised in Georgia.”
While the future looks very bright musically, some of Kelly’s most treasured experiences are found in her tenure with the Army National Guard, including her deployment in Iraq. She enlisted in October, 2005 inspired by the sense of pride she felt when her brothers and a close friend joined the military. “I grew up with two older brothers so of course I followed their every move as well as joining the military after they did,” she says. Being a female, however, her options were limited with respect to combat but Kelly was determined to be where the action was. “I wanted to be in the middle of everything,” she recalls, “so the recruiter suggested the Military Police because they are considered combat support and train like the infantry.”
Deployed in Iraq from 2007-2008, Kelly had to find her place as a member of the “Boys Club,” and yet she says her male counterparts seemed a little more uneasy than she was. Ever the tomboy, it didn’t take long before she won her place as one of the guys, and discovered she was surrounded by a bunch of big brothers. And at just 20 years-old in a foreign country for the first time, it’s a good thing she was. Running into bunkers at all hours when the mortars and rockets started flying took some getting used to but eventually she learned to take the danger in its stride — and maybe even became too nonchalant about it.
“It definitely has its ups and downs as in any job,” she says, “however, we are trained well and prepared for what the job throws at us whether in war or stateside.” Still, there are some things nothing and no one can prepare you for — like coming home. Dodging mortar rounds, being moving targets as you ride in convoys, scouring every inch of the landscape for IEDs, and all the rest takes its toll. Everyday life in Iraq is not conducive to everyday life back home and Kelly found herself angry and withdrawing, up against an enemy even more stubborn than Iraqi insurgents — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “So many soldiers deal with that, I didn’t want to sound like I was whining,” she explains, “I felt like I had to be tough.”
A one-two punch of counseling and the right medications put it all back in perspective, got her reaching for her dreams again, and dealing with her experiences rather than letting them deal with her. It’s also left her wiser for the wear, “I guess I would like other vets to know that although I was diagnosed with PTSD, I have gone through the necessary rehabilitation to get well and they can too. If you feel you have PTSD don’t be afraid to speak up. I was afraid in the beginning because I didn’t want people to think I was weak or broken — especially since the Army encourages soldiers to be strong. They also have many programs in place to help you, so take advantage of that as most of them are free. If you don’t want to get help for yourself, do it for your family, friends, fellow battle buddies, or for the citizens you protect so that you are always mission ready. And last but not least do it for the soldiers and their families that don’t make it back home.”
To get to know Kelly a little better, and check out her music, visit www.reverbnation.com/kellyballard or hit her Facebook page.