These words were said to me earlier today when I asked Peter, one of our SW:S Veterans from Albany, NY, how he felt listening to the songs he had written.

“I still feel more release, even now. We need more of this for veterans,” he said quietly.

Peter is a Vietnam Veteran who was initially reluctant to participate in our program.

Veterans from our December retreat reunited today so I could personally deliver their CD and lyric book packages, and thank them again for sharing their stories with all of us. One brought pizza and drinks. Another commented, “I feel like it’s my birthday.” They couldn’t wait to hear the songs, so I loaded a CD into my player and we listened while we ate.

We were all blown away. It is one thing to hear the songs performed live during the retreat when they are fresh and the energy is so high, with lots of strong connections taking place. But, hearing them a month or two later was unpredictable. How would they sound now? How would the veterans react?

One powerful song after another boomed from my little player. Their songs. Nine of them written over the course of three 3-hour sessions. The quantity and quality were not lost on us for a second. After the seventh song I pushed PAUSE to see if they needed a break, some process or comment time. We all took a deep breath. “Amazing!” echoed like a chorus around the room.

“My wife is going to play this a lot,” said one. “I think it will help.”

The veterans wanted to talk and tossed memories around the room, some having to do with the songwriting process (“those guys really listened”), others having to do with combat—“Hearing these reminds me of some of the faces I see, the ones we lost.”

“Is it hard to hear them?” I asked. “Does it make you sad?”

“No,” said Peter. “It makes it real. These are real people. Real stories. It helps to get them out.”

I was witnessing the absolute truth. These guys don’t want to sugar coat anything. They gained strength and camaraderie as the songs played. Their relief and genuine gratitude was fully visible. I felt privileged to be there.

I couldn’t get home fast enough to write this post.

More Veterans need this.

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