John Preston thinks the third time is the charm.
After two, failed runs at rock stardom John feels he finally has the right music, and the right message, to make the big time.
"How I feel right now is that, where we are at in life, we've written a hit," John says.
The 32-year-old Iraq War veteran and Palo Alto firefighter has recently released a single and EP, Your War Is Over, pledging 30% of the sales to a non profit that helps veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"Somewhere along the way something blessed me with a talent," John says. "We're going to take whatever I can do with that talent to raise awareness for the rest of the country."
John grew in up rural Kentucky, dreaming of being a rock star. Still, he always knew he would first follow in the steps of his father and two older brothers by enlisting in the Marines. John signed up in 2000. He was on a training exercise in Southern California on 9/11.
"What happened that day changed the course of my life," John say. He was sent to Iraq in 2004, in charge of a unit of Marines providing security and escorts at the height of the war.
John says he felt great pride in his service and enjoyed the work he was doing overseas. Just before he was about to re-enlist, though, a Marine buddy recorded a video of John singing a song he had written about the good work American soldiers were doing in Iraq.
"Good Good America" got the attention of the media and ended up getting hundreds of thousands of views on-line. A record company got in touch with John and offered to sign him to a contract. John chose a future in music over a career in the Marines.
His first taste of stardom fizzled out, though, leaving John disillusioned about a music career. "I put the guitar down and stopped playing," John says.
A few years later he gave a music career another try with a band called Highway 42. John dedicated himself to becoming a better musician for this try, but the result was the same.
"We ended up playing a gig, and no one showed up," John recalls. "We kind of looked at each other said, "this is the end."
John decided to get on with the rest of his life. He got married and became a father. He went back to school with the goal of being a firefighter. That happened when the Palo Alto Fire Department offered him a job. John thought he had put music behind him for good.
"It kept knocking, though," John says.
Then John learned about the stateside struggles of a wartime friend suffering from PTSD. "He addicted to meth, he's lost his family, he's probably going to jail," John says.
John wrote the song, Your War Is Over, for that friend, but when he finished, he realized more people needed to hear it. He contacted the record label that signed him back in 2004 and they agreed to release the single, and later an EP.
"We are raising money, sure, but my word is awareness," John says. "22 veterans a day commit suicide in this country. When I heard that number it blew my mind and made me want this more than ever."
John and his bandmates are now working songs for an album they also hope to release.