News: Tony Melendez offers warriors a foot of hope
Story by Sgt. Ida Irby
EL PASO, Texas - Tony Melendez, a musician born without arms, performed alongside the Toe Jam Band featuring Roland Guerrero, of El Paso, Texas, and Pat Smith, of Greely, Company, during a weekly Bible study held by Capt. Richard Dunbar, Warrior Transition Battalion chaplain, Sept. 12, 2012, at the Soldier Family Resilience Center.
“What many hands can do, my feet will simulate,” said Tony, 53, who continues to put his confidence above his handicap. Being born a thalidomide baby, Tony continues to share his message of determination after he was born without arms as a result of his mother ingesting the drug thalidomide – a medication used for morning sickness.
Tony began playing musical instruments at the age of 16 in high school, where other children teased him for his handicap. At 25 years old, Tony performed "Never Be The Same" on acoustic guitar for Pope John Paul II in Los Angeles, Sept. 15, 1987. After playing for the pope, he now travels all over the world to share his special gift and to inspire people to pursue their dreams.
“Tony has taught me discipline and inner strength,” said Jose Melendez, Tony’s older brother. “When society says no, Tony keeps trying and he continues to inspire people everywhere he goes.”
Jose , an Air Force veteran, mentioned that he had to fight to protect his brother as a child and as an adult he fought to protect this country.
“Thank you for what you have done, and I hope you feel appreciated for the sacrifices you’ve made for your country,” said Jose to the crowd of warriors in transition and cadre at the WTB.
According to Dunbar, the soldiers who attended the Bible study were thankful for the opportunity to enjoy a guitarist with such a strong voice and inspirational message. There were many themes during the performance, but the message of hope and perseverance informed soldiers that no matter what problems they encounter they can do more to rise above any limitations and strive for excellence, he stated.
“Tony’s performance offered the ultimate motivation to wounded soldiers who work to overcome their injuries here everyday,” said Dunbar. “There is hope for soldiers to overcome the struggles of mental and physical illness – with God all things are possible.”
“Tony has an incredible message for soldiers who endure both physical and psychological limitations – what’s going on inside their hearts,” said Guerrero. “We came to [Bible study] because we love and support the service members.”
Tony recorded his first album in 1989, entitled “Never Be the Same.” Since then, he also released “And The Walls Came Tumblin Down” and “Ways of the Wise.”