Cover Art Courtesy of Big Machine Records
NASHVILLE, TN (May 26, 2021) – This Memorial Day, Big Machine Label Group and CreatiVets partner for the release of “All I Need Is You” featuring Kalsey Kulyk. Five years after their son’s disappearance, Mike and Lisa De La Cruz join Richard Casper, Mark Irwin and Kalsey Kulyk to share their son’s story in a powerful new way.
Sgt. Dillon Semolina grew up in Delano, Minnesota. He graduated from Delano High School in 2010 and joined the Marine Corps a year later, both meeting his childhood aspirations and following in his stepdad Mike’s footsteps. Mike was a Marine during Operation Desert Shield.
Dillon was one of 12 Marines lost when two helicopters crashed during a routine air training mission in Hawaii on January 14, 2016. An intense, round-the-clock, multi-day search for the Marines was eventually called off, leaving his parents to grieve an unimaginable loss.
The De La Cruzes came to CreatiVets in November 2016 after meeting executive director Richard Casper and songwriter Kalsey Kulyk at a Tee It Up for the Troops event earlier that fall. CreatiVets offers a number of arts programs including songwriting, where veterans and veteran families are paired with hit songwriters to help process their service-related experiences.
Mike and Lisa’s song, “All I Need Is You,” was written by Kulyk and fellow Country songwriter Mark Irwin. They described the process as “incredibly emotional,” detailing how tough the write was, yet how willing the couple was to share information.
Kulyk noted, “I’ve never written with parents who have lost a child before, let alone in the veteran community, for CreatiVets.” She went on, “Every time I’ve written with a veteran, it’s always choked me up a bit… with this one we really got to feel the ache of a mother and father losing their son. It’s a memory that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
When asked what set this song apart from other writes she has done, she said, “Every one does in their own special way, but with this one… everybody talks about how it’s such an unspeakable heartbreak to feel. To be able to witness it and hear their story and watch them cry… it’s really hard for me to describe, which is crazy because I’m a songwriter.”
Kulyk expanded on the first lyric, “got your sea turtle drawing hanging up there on the fridge.” In planning Dillon’s memorial service, Lisa came across a picture of a sea turtle he had drawn as a child. Turning it over, the date read February 26, the same day they had scheduled his funeral service over a decade later.
Mike described other instances of “crazy coincidences” revolving around Dillon and sea turtles. By the time Mike and Lisa made it to Hawaii for the soldiers’ recovery mission, only three Marines were unaccounted for. Three sea turtles washed up as they stood by the shore, at what they were told was an incredibly rare time of year. When the couple later moved to Florida, they found three sea turtles sitting in the middle of their street. Finding Dillon’s drawing, Lisa felt “it was just once again time for him to talk.”
Mike also noted the lack of closure in their situation. To this day Dillon is the only Marine who has not been identified by DNA or other tangible evidence from the crash.
The De La Cruzes are the first Gold Star family to participate in CreatiVets’ songwriting program. Since Dillon’s disappearance, the family has partnered with America’s Mighty Warriors to become a Serenity Hope home for other Gold Star families.
Lisa described the program as rewarding. “It’s so hard to find somebody else that really understands your journey or what you’re going through. [The families| help us with our healing through our giving to them, and we’re able to just spoil them up and learn about their loved one that they lost and… support each other.”
With “All I Need Is You,” she said, “there is that lack of closure. Some of these extra things…the song… they’re nice. They’re nice to have in his honor.”
Mike added, “The story, the music, everything… fold it together. It’s horrible and wonderful at the exact same time.”
Looking ahead to its release on May 31, Lisa said with a peace in her voice, “I usually don’t look forward to Memorial Day with everything that happened. This year is different.”
Irwin commented on the writers’ side, “Hopefully we did our job, doing the young man’s story justice.” Both the writing team and the family hope that next Monday, “listeners will feel it and experience it too.”
Pre-save “All I Need Is You” written by Mike and Lisa De La Cruz, Richard Casper, Mark Irwin and Kalsey Kulyk
Learn more about Dillon’s story and Serenity Hope Home