A mother of five, US Army veteran Michelle Roberts had tried to end her life, more than once. We found this out through her song. We also learned that her five children were her “five reasons” to keep living. Everyone at the retreat could see the relief and renewed sense of purpose in Michelle’s eyes as the retreat came to an end. What we learned from Michelle after the retreat gave us more reasons to keep going.

Dear Mary,

I was very apprehensive to sign up for SongwritingWith:Soldiers because while I have always loved music, I seriously doubted my ability to create a song. In addition to that apprehension surrounding my musical ability, I am not a group person and new experiences are usually not something I seek. I suffer from PTSI and multiple physical ailments related to my military service during Operation Desert Shield/Storm and few treatments have ever relieved my symptoms. However, SongwritingWith:Soldiers absolutely transformed my life.

I arrived at the ranch and tried to avoid as many people as I could until the time we all met in the great room and were all introduced to the Musicians. I began with arms crossed and skeptical, but by the end of the first jam session, I began to feel a bit of the sludge of my life wear away, my toes were tapping, and I actually started to smile again. This trend continued throughout the weekend and my heart began to heal.

When it was finally my time to write my song with Bonnie Bishop, I was nervous, but excited. Throughout the songwriting process I could feel something inside of me change and open up. The ability to transform trauma into music was extremely cathartic. Hearing my song was profound and really helped me to process some difficult emotions.

SW:S changed my life. It helped me fall in love with music again. It helped me realize I am not alone. SW:S wiped away years of mud that was stuck on my soul and gave me a way to deal with heavy thoughts and emotions that had been crushing me for so many years. I can’t explain what sort of magic happened, but SW:S healed me more than years of therapy. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing and life changing this one weekend was for myself and my family.

Thank you so much Mary for this beautiful gift!

All my love,
Michelle Roberts

Michelle Roberts (left) at a SW:S retreat in Colorado. Photo: Rick Loomis