Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Yellow Balloon" - Tommy Houston

In July 2014, CreatiVets was honored to take veteran Tommy Houston to Nashville, TN, where he wrote "Yellow Balloon" with professional songwriters Dave Pittenger and Matt McClure. "Yellow Balloon" is a song written for Tommy's daughter, Emily. While Tommy is proud to have served our country, he points out the difficulties of balancing a military career with family life. He wanted to dedicate his song to Emily, to reconnect with her before starting college in the Fall.
Tommy began his military career in 1987 when he joined United States Navy.  He was in aviation ordnance( air-crewmen) on P-3 Orion C.  Tommy left the Navy honorably after Desert Shield and Desert Storm and went to college at the University of Montana where he studied English literature. In 1996 he joined the Army and became an infantryman. During his time in the Army, Tommy served as a Machine gunner, fire team leader, squad leader, Platoon Sergeant, training NCO, readiness NCO, and a recruiter. His last tour of duty was as a United Nations training assistance team member where he trained foreign armies to conduct peacekeeping operations for the UN all over the Pacific Rim. Tommy closed out his military career serving as a Reintegration team member and a suicide intervention counselor.
See an interview with Tommy below, followed by an interview with Emily. You can listen to Tommy's song, "Yellow Balloon" at the end of the post.
Interview with Tommy
1. What were your expectations for the songwriting trip to Nashville? Did you already have in mind what kind of song you wanted to create?
"I had no expectations or ideas as to what was going to happen in Nashville. I heard Sean Davis's (previous veteran who participated in the CreatiVets program) song and saw what kind of an impact it had on him and was excited to be a part of that. I had 7.6 million different ideas as to what kind of a song I wanted. What I ended up with was so much better."
2. Please share whatever you feel comfortable with about your time in the Army, your time deployed, and the struggles of raising a family while serving in the military.
"My biggest struggle upon returning home was learning how to be a part of the family again. I've struggled with a lack of emotion on certain issues that my family tends to be emotional about, and there seems to be a quiet ,passive sort of separation or distance between my family and me. The loss of participation in my children's lives while I was gone is something I can't make up. I mourn the loss of it."
3. What did this experience mean to you? Did it allow you to connect with your daughter in a different way?
"The song gave me a chance to tell my daughter, Emily, something I never could quite figure out how to do. I felt as if I was put in a position where even if I had said the words to her face-to-face it didn't have nearly as much impact as the song did, and it definitely brought Emily closer to me again."
Interview with Emily
1. What did you know about your Father's trip to Nashville? Did you have any idea he was creating a piece for you?
"I didn't really know anything about what he was doing in Nashville. I knew he was going there to do something with CreatiVets, but I didn't know much about it, or that the trip had anything to do with me."
2. Please describe how a family must demonstrate strength while a parent serves in the military. What was difficult about having a father who served in the Army?
"When my dad left for Iraq, which was the longest/most important leave he took, I was only about 6. I didn't completely understand what was happening, as I was barely in 1st grade, so it was difficult for me in a different way than for somebody who fully grasped the idea of what their loved what was doing when they left. An older person might worry if the deployed family member has had enough to eat, or sleep, or if they've been shot at that very second they were thinking about them. For me, and most younger kids who have parents or older siblings in the military, you don't even think about those kinds of things. You wonder why they aren't there to make you your bowl of Cheerios in the morning, or why they missed your most important birthday party, or where in the world this 'Iraq' place was that was so far away Dad couldn't come home to say goodnight."
3. What did this song mean to you?
"This song meant a lot to me, because it helped me grow closer to my dad."
Emily adds that she is so proud of her dad for his bravery and for serving our country.

Listen to "Yellow Balloon" Audio:

Or Video:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Warrior" - Jonas Ridesatthedoor

Jonas served in the United States Marine Corps, as a 0331 Infantry heavy machine gunner from June 2003 until June 2007. He joined when he was just 18 years old. He served in the tour to Iraq, operating primarily out of Al Anbar Province in western Iraq. Two deployments were with the 2nd Battalion 7th Marine Regime, 1st Marine Division (2/7), and one deployment with the 1st Tank Battalion 1st Marine Division, stationed in Twentynine Palms California.

Meet Jonas C. Ridesatthedoor:

"As of now, I’m 29 years old. I’m Native American, a proud member of the Blackfeet nation, located in Montana. I joined the Marine Corps, and specifically the Infantry to serve, fight, and carry on my heritage; my grandpa was in the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper, and I have many other family members that have served and fought in every U.S. war since World War II. My great-great grandpa was a Blackfeet war chief, who held the original Ridesatthedoor (Rides At The Door) name, receiving this name for his actions against an enemy while on his horse (Rides At The Door refers to riding a horse at a lodge door).

For my people, and many other Native Americans, we see military service as a continuation of our warrior culture, and the protection of our people and traditional land. I did receive a Purple Heart on July 2nd, 2004, when an IED of stacked artillery rounds exploded a few feet in the front right of the truck while I was up on the gun of the rear truck facing the rear. It sent small to medium size shrapnel into my back, arms, back of the head, side of the face, some of which is still embedded in my body. Blew out both of my ear drums, which still rings to this day. I lost consciousness and experienced a concussion.

4 years of college at the University of Montana in Missoula MT, just need to write a paper and I’m done, double major in Native American studies and political science. I’m considering grad/law school, maybe in a couple years, right now I want to get myself established in what exactly I’m going to do for a career, meaning I want to work. I strongly believe every veteran should use their hard earned education benefits.

I see a lifelong venture in continuing to help people, and stand up for those rights and fight those injustices. I have a 3 year old daughter, Maleah Jane Ridesatthedoor. Married a little over a year, met my wife here in Missoula in 2008. They mean everything to me."

Jonas’s Interview:

How did you find out about CreatiVets?

By Richard Casper (Executive Director) himself.

What did you expect from your trip to Nashville?

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, I had a few scenarios in my head, none of which came true, but regardless, I had a feeling that it was going to be a great experience. I knew Richard Casper would not disappoint.

How do you feel you benefitted from this experience?

I felt it was beneficial in a multitude of ways. An important one is that it lets me tell my story in a unique and artistic way, which I think, more importantly, helps my family and friends better understand what I went through over there. Another important one for me is that I think having my song out there will be beneficial to other veterans, either that it will encourage others to want to tell their story in their own unique ways, or that it will make it a little easier to start opening up to the ones around them. I know when I first got out I avoided telling people what went on in Iraq, even though I thought about it constantly. This whole experience has motivated me to keep writing my memoirs, something I’ve been wanting to do and keep putting off for years now.

Was it easier to open up to the writers having another combat veteran there with you?

It was very helpful, without Richard, I might have held back on some things, he really made the mood right. Combat veterans understand where each other are coming from, when mostly others don’t. Sometimes I find myself really being cautious around people, which I don’t have to be all the time anymore. From the war, I’ve developed trust issues, especially with strangers, it’s something I’m working on.

In your opinion what does CreatiVets offer that other programs for healing don’t?

What sets them apart? Yes, CreatiVets takes a more personal approach with veterans, and is very unique when compared to other veteran healing based companies out there. All veteran healing programs are needed and welcome, but sometimes with programs, the healing doesn’t reach everyone as extensively as it would with Creativets, or it doesn’t have a lasting effect; with my song, it will always be there for generations to come, it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling every time I hear it.

Do you feel other veterans would benefit from this opportunity?

Absolutely, I strongly believe every veteran should to tell their story for the benefit of themselves and their loved ones. I know personally, it was very hard for me to talk about my Iraq war experience, and avoided questions about it, I didn’t want to revisit the sad feelings or horrific memories. I wasn’t until after I began to tell my story to people, that I felt a sense of relief from some of the grief I held inside. It’s not good to keep things all bottled up, it will manifest and eat you from the inside.
As I did with Jesse’s trip to Nashville, I wanted to hear about the CreatiVets experience from the wifes perspective.

Meet Maegan Rides At The Door. Her and Jonas have known each other since 2008 and were married on August 25th, 2012.

In what ways have you seen Jonas’s experience with CreatiVets affect him?

Jonas seemed to look forward to this upcoming trip and was even more upbeat in the days before. But I think the most valuable part of it was him being able to tell his story and have his experience validated through a song. There aren’t many instances where Jonas has been able to share his experience on such a large scale. The song itself honored his unique experience and Jonas was very pleased that the writers were able to stay true to his actual experience when converting it into lyrics. After his trip, he continues to play this song on a daily basis. I think this was able to help him not only during the trip and in the days after but that he will now have something he can play during times when he is struggling. In that sense the song has provided another avenue for healing. He was also able to share it with his veteran buddies, family and friends which has also been helpful.

What did you think/feel when you first heard the song he wrote?

I cried the first time I heard it and I didn’t really expect to so it was really impactful. I felt a whole rush of happiness and I mostly thought about his whole experience in the service and how proud I was too, as his wife. There were lot of significant events and he has so much more memories but it did a good job of representing his overall experience.

How do you feel CreatiVets is different from other programs offered to our veterans?

What sets them apart? I was surprised to learn about CreatiVets because there isn’t anything like that in our area for veterans so it was great that this organization was able to reach out to him where we live. I think what sets this organization apart is the validation part of having an organization and writers and an audience of people recognize and hear our veterans stories not just one time but having a song that will be able to be shared forever.

When we asked Maegan to share any additional information, the following is what she wrote:

“It isn’t the easiest job in the world, being married to a combat veteran and I think the general public doesn’t often think of how hard it is for spouses and dependents to live with someone coping with trauma. It takes a lot of understanding, empathy, and patience but there is hope for our veterans. I have seen my husband continue to heal and every year it gets better and better so it is important to continue to support our veterans and their families by providing them with experiences like this.”

Jonas, Maegan, and the life they have created post-war, post-trauma, is further proof that heroes are among us. They don’t wear capes, but they are the men and women who choose to live life after trauma, they are the spouse who supports, they are the people who choose to overcome the obstacles in their way. It’s not that they never fall; it’s that they always get back up.

Listen to "Warrior" on SoundCloud at:

Friday, July 25, 2014

"They Call Me Doc" - Navy Corpsman

In June of 2014 CreatiVets was honored to take a Navy veteran to Nashville, TN, to create a piece about his duties as a Corpsman.  This Navy Corpsman saved the lives of Marines who were seriously injured in Iraq, and truly defines the word "hero".  Check out our interview with him then, listen to the song (at bottom) he created with the help of CreatiVets and the band Walker McGuire.

1.  When did you serve as a Navy Corpsman, and what did you do overseas?

I entered the Navy in July 1996 and graduated Corps school in Jan 1997. I then transferred to Field Medical Service School for training. I reported to 6th ESB Co “C” as a HM1 in 2003 as the I&I Corpsman. I was mobilized to deploy with the unit in 2004.

Overseas I was assigned as the LPO of the Battalion Aid Station for CSSB-7, Al Asad, as well as the Engineer companies HM. As the LPO my main responsibility was the everyday operations of the BAS as well as ensuring medical coverage for the resupply and recovery convoys for our AOR.

The main reasonability for our staff of HM’s was to be where we may be needed, and for our battalion that was on the convoys. When manning was available we would provide 2 HM’s and an ambulance for each convoy. For the most part the convoys were uneventful. We would have IED’s at most of the same spots on our convoys so they were expected and for the most part we were lucky that there were not more injuries during the convoys.

The reason that I was invited to Nashville and be a part of CreatiVets was because of a Marine (Jeremy) that was injured on a convoy that I was providing medical coverage for. While we were returning from a resupply convoy to a FOB we were passing a vehicle that was pulled off of the road by our security team at the lead of the convoy. The ambulance that I was in was driving behind an MTVR that had 7 Marines onboard. As the MTVR was passing the vehicle it detonated with the driver inside (SVIED) and engulfed the MTVR in flames. The other HM and I provided initial medical care and MEDIVAC’d the Marines.

Knowing what I knew about CreatiVets and how they help injured tell their stories I wondered how I fitted in to the program since I was not physically injured. Speaking with Richard (CreatiVets Executive Director) and Jeremy (Marine who went through the program), they let me know that they wanted to get an experience from the medical side of story. How the HM’s and medics do what they do and how it affects them and I was honored to be invited.

2. What were your expectations for your trip to Nashville, TN?  Did the trip meet your expectations?

Not really knowing what to expect when I arrived in Nashville I was a little apprehensive. I have told people my experiences before but I never went to in depth as to what it was truly like and how it had affected me. The trip was great. Jeremy took me around and showed me the sights of Nashville the day I arrived. We were to meet with Walker McGuire the following day. I would have to say that the trip far exceeded what I expected. Being able to discuss past experiences with those who were there with me was worth it but to add the songwriting experience to it was great.

3. What was the interaction like with Walker McGuire?  How did they help put your story into song?

The interaction between Walker McGuire and me was awesome. The session started by Richard and Jeremy explaining what CreatiVets is about and then they turned it over to me to tell my story. I was comfortable telling them what I experienced and the writers were taking notes and strumming on the guitars the whole time. Once I finished talking they had already had some thought on how the song should go and a couple key items that I mentioned that they believed should be in the song. One of the things that I wanted to be incorporated into the song was that I wanted it to be about the whole spectrum of care not just my experience. I wanted to tell the story of how Doc’s treat someone in the field as well as how they are treated during their recovery. I believe that Walker McGuire did a great job at doing this by putting lyrics together that were both personal to me but mixing them with ones that most HM’s would understand.

It amazed me in the amount of time Walker McGuire needed to complete the song. From the start of me telling my story to the finishing of the song took less than an hour and a half. The first time the song was played as a whole was the recording that is on You Tube and it sounded amazing.  To experience the writing session and to see how it is put together from start to finish was great. These are definitely some talented individuals and I am thankful to them for spending their time to do this for me and CreatiVets.

4. What did family/friends think of your song?

My friends and family was very impressed with the song. Even though they do not fully understand how it was in Iraq I believe that this gives them a better understanding of what I as well as other HM’s were able to do while deployed. All of my friends that are Corpsman thought the song was great and have shared it with others.

This was a great experience and I believe that Richard and the CreatiVets organization as a whole is doing great things to help veterans cope with experiences that they have had. I would definitely like to thank Richard and Jeremy for inviting me to take part in this and to tell the story.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Accidental Patriot" - Sean Davis

In May of 2014 Army National Guard Veteran Sean Davis was taken to Nashville, TN, to write with professionals about his experiences overseas.  In the end, the song "Accidental Patriot" was created in honor of Sean's fallen friend and fellow Guardsman, Eric.  We thank Sean for his service to our country, and we thank the writers in Nashville for working with him to create a song in memory of Eric's sacrifice. 
(See video recording of "Accidental Patriot" at the bottom.  Writers: Sean Davis, Lance Carpenter, and Matt Mason)
Here is Sean's Story:

          When Richard Casper, founder of Creativets, told me about his program I thought it was a great idea. I know first hand how art can help combat-injured vets heal. I credit art with saving my life. Painting and writing my book got me through the hardest times.  Richard and I were speaking at a college event in Michigan when he told me that I should go down to Nashville and write a country song, and like so many other veterans I thought there had to be a couple dozen other veterans more deserving, but Richard kept at it and sent me the tickets.
            I was hit in an ambush outside Taji, Iraq, in 2004. A good friend of mine was killed instantly and the explosion broke the right side of my body. The physical injuries healed but for a long time the survivor’s guilt ate at me, along with the guilt of being in charge and losing a man. Ten years have gone by and I feel I’ve been able to put most of the difficult times behind me, but during my writing session with the kick-ass writers Richard lined up I learned there was still a lot unsaid, unfelt, and unrealized.
            I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t apprehensive because I was able to spend a week with Richard before heading south and as two former infantrymen we hit it off, but music was an avenue I never tried before. So, I may not have been apprehensive but truthfully I may have been cynical. I just didn’t think I had the ability to write a song, but after sitting through the session and having a blast with Lance Carpenter, Matt Mason, and Richard, I found that making the music was just as much about the experience than the song itself. At the end of my trip CreatiVets surprised me with a guitar of my own, and I might just be beginning my road as a song writer, but for now just sitting in my writing office and plucking on the strings the way the YouTube video tells me does more to relax me than I would have ever imagined.
            The unexpected benefits of the program keep happening. Now that I’ve gone through the program, I get to refer the most deserving soldiers I know, so they can have the amazing experience I did. Not only that but the song I wrote just poured out of me and it was about Eric, my soldier who died, and how he was a great human being, and how after ten years I’m afraid people are starting to forget his sacrifice. I played the demo recording Matt Mason sent me to my wife and shared the lyrics with Eric’s mother. They had tears in their eyes and with the song I know that even the people who never heard of Eric will understand his life, his death, and how his story is worth reminding our society about.  
            I want to thank Richard, the Gibson Guitar Company, the songwriters, and everyone else who made this experience a reality. It was an amazing once in a lifetime experience that will help other veterans heal as well as help our culture remember the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have given to this country.

Friday, March 28, 2014

“How to Come Home” – Blake Gilroy

A common feeling shared among combat veterans is the anxiety and loneliness associated with coming home from war.  These feelings may not make sense to others, but these are issues many veterans face.  They might feel useless once they are done fighting a war, not knowing what else to do with themselves.  They might feel lonely being away from other people who understand their experiences.  For Blake Gilroy, a Marine veteran of the war in Iraq, these struggles are all too real.
Blake served in the Marine Corps Infantry in Iraq from 2006 to 2007.  During that time, he was injured after being involved in three IED explosions and also experienced the loss of a good friend.  Servicemen who experience situations like these often struggle the most once they are home.  This may be because during a war, they are doing their job and trying to stay alive.  They must remain focused, and can’t dwell on what takes place while they are overseas.  However, once they are home they have all the time in the world to think.  At the same time, they are trying to learn how to live life outside of a warzone.  This was the case for Blake.

The following is from an interview with Blake:
The hard part about coming home isn't what I had to do when I put a uniform on, it was what I had to learn to do when I took it off, whether it was for a night or permanently. It was certainly unpleasant while I was still on active duty, not so much for me but for everyone near me. I drank constantly and figured it was completely fine provided I always made it to work somewhat sober in the morning. I felt physically fine, and didn't have too many symptoms as I was living on base at the time. Eventually shit caught up with me and I found myself on a locked unit and then to rehab. After I had been in rehab for a few weeks, my doctor there told me my problem wasn't with booze it was with PTSD, which had never really crossed my mind.”

At the end of Blake’s time in the Corps, he tried to go back overseas to fight in Afghanistan.  He was told he could not do so, and got out of the military.  Blake went home not knowing what to do with himself, as he was no longer Cpl. Gilroy.  He struggled to have normal conversation with other people, and had trouble talking with people who could not understand him.  Many people would want to know, “Did you kill anyone?” which was a question Blake hated.  He also couldn’t focus around too many people at once, because he was constantly worried about what they might do or attempt.  This made normal tasks like grocery shopping very difficult.  His neighbors saw him as just a “crazy veteran” besides one man who was a Marine veteran himself. 
It’s been a long time since Blake had an uninterrupted sleep.  Most nights he sleeps on the couch to be closer to the door.  Blake says, “There's a part of me that is never going to leave the war, and while those of us that have been there understand it, there's no teaching anyone else the truth about it.”
In February 2014, Blake went to Nashville to write with professional songwriters, Ryan Creamer and Lance Carpenter.  He wrote about the challenge he still faces every day, coming home from war. 
“They taught me how to fight, how to shoot, how to stay alive,
How to win, how to save, how to take a life,
They taught me everything I needed to know,
But they didn’t teach me how to come home.”

Thank you for your service, Blake.  Your song will touch other veterans who share the same struggles as you do.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"90 Proof Lies" (Survivor) - Steven Cobb

Survivor’s Guilt is a common feeling among those coming home from war and leaving their fellow brothers and sisters behind.  While many of us may think the veterans coming home are the lucky ones, they often do not feel that way.  It is very difficult for them to understand why they are still living while their friends are not.

At the end of January, 2014, Marine veteran, Steven Cobb, shared with songwriters what it feels like to leave friends behind after war.  With them, he was able to create a song full of emotion that the rest of the world can listen to and understand.  Steven explains through his lyrics how veterans must learn how to live again when they experience Survivor’s Guilt and PTSD.
“I got to live, now I’ve got to learn to live with me”

It is not easy for veterans to open up to the songwriters in Nashville, so every song created is a huge accomplishment.  However, Steven says, “I was fortunate to talk to Jeremy Janssen (a veteran who previously went through the CreatiVets program) before I agreed to go to Nashville and meet with the writers; he eased all my fears and answered all my questions before I arrived.”  Steven really valued how professional the writers were and how grateful they were for his service. 
One part of Steven’s song that really stands out tells of his appreciation for his family.  “But she told me the truth I didn’t wanna see, ‘I miss the man I married, lay down that load you carry’.” As a Marine who has seen the horrors of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan (Iraq: Jan-Oct 2005, Mar-Oct 2008 and Afghanistan: Oct 2009-Apr 2010), it is often hard for people to relate to his experiences.  However, his wife Kate is both supportive of Steven and can understand where his feelings come from.  Kate is a Marine as well, and she served during 3 deployments to Iraq (Feb-sep 2004, Feb-sep 2006, Feb-Aug 2008).  Kate has believed in Steven throughout all of his struggles, and has helped him to feel better about himself.  CreatiVets thanks both of them for their service, and for their support of one another after war.

Kate says her husband had some very traumatic experiences in Afghanistan and she is so proud of how far he has come reconnecting with himself; for himself, for her, and for their children.  A quote from Kate sums up her love for him: “He really liked going to Nashville. I love the song he wrote and I'm so proud of the man my husband has become and the man, and father, he is. I pray every night for his heart to be relieved of the burdens and pain he feels and I truly feel this experience has helped him a lot. Thank you so much CreatiVets!”

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"Falling Through the Cracks" - Jeremy Janssen

On December 11th, 2013, Marine Veteran Jeremy Janssen went to Nashville with the CreatiVets program and wrote with Matt Mason and Lance Carpenter. Together they wrote "Falling Through the Cracks" from the stories Jeremy had shared with them.

(Interview with Jeremy)

What drew you to joining the military.

“I knew, from a young age, that I wanted to join the military, having always felt a sense of pride in my country and a sense of duty to serve. Honestly I joined the Corps, in particular, because I thought their uniforms were pretty cool.”

What was your experience while over seas?

“Being overseas really sucked. The food was terrible, the women were terrible, and pretty much everyone was trying to kill us….including the women. Really it was 99% boredom, and 1% sheer terror. We would spend days not seeing anything, and then find 8 or 9 IED’s in one day.”

How were you injured?

“I was hit by a suicide bomber on 12/22/04 and broke my back in 3 places, got 3rd degree burns, had my arm torn apart, had shrapnel wounds to both legs, broke 4 ribs and had a collapsed lung.”

What were some of the hardships you faced once you were back stateside adjusting back to "normal" life?

“I was pretty much treated like shit by everyone. I was flown into O’hare airport, which is 4 hours away from home, with no wallet, no phone, and no idea what to do. Everyone else had these big welcome home deals….I wasn’t given a uniform to go home in (they gave me a Tampa Bay sweat shirt and black sweat pants that were used), was wheeled into the airport and told “good luck” I am still really bitter about the fact that literally everyone had this huge welcome home party while I was made to cook burgers at my units welcome home party later in the year.”

What were some of your expectations when going to Nashville? Do you feel that they were met?

“I really didn’t know what to expect when I was going down there. I am not artistic, and really don’t like country music. Richie met me down there and immediately put me at ease. I hung out with some really cool people and made a song that I am extremely proud of. It even changed my taste in music a little bit, as I listen to country every now and again.”

What was your experience while in Nashville with the writers? Explain a little of the process.

“I was introduced on the first day while in the recording studio, and when we went to lunch. They were a little rushed, but introduced themselves and were just great people. When we were writing the listened to everything I had to say and turned my story into a badass song!”

Did you ever think you would have the opportunity to have a song wrote on your experiences overseas for others to hear?

“I honestly never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever go to Nashville, meet some amazing artists, and make an awesome song. It was a GREAT experience.”

How do you think this experience has changed your life.

“I have definitely been a lot happier since the writing session. It showed me a different way to express myself and got a lot of pain off my chest. It was good to see that I was not alone in this as well, Richie had a lot in common with what I have gone through and is truly a good person.”

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Grab My Pack" - Stevan Thompson

In December, 2013, Marine veteran Stevan Thompson took a trip to Nashville, TN, through the CreatiVets program.  While there, he met with songwriters Dave Pittenger and Bob Regan to create a piece through which he could share his story.
Stevan served in Iraq from February 12th to September 15th of 2004, and again from July 4th to December 9th of 2005.  Stevan was injured during his second deployment, and had to be transported back to the states.
Interview with Stevan:
1. What did you expect to gain from your trip to Nashville? Did your experience meet your expectations?

“What I expected from the trip was to be able to help others going through a tough time. To express the deep connection that we share as veterans. To show that they are not alone and their brothers and sisters are there to help them. The trip met and exceeded my expectations and hope others have the same reaction as I did.”

2. How was your interaction with the writers (Dave Pittenger and Bob Regan)? How did you work with them to develop your story into a song?

“My interaction with the writers was amazing. They took what I was trying to express and with the help of Richard (CreatiVets, Executive Director), they were able to put it in terms that could be expressed to anyone.”

 We also had the opportunity to talk with Stevan’s wife, who says she is thankful her husband was able to take the Nashville trip.  Mrs. Thompson says, “It was a positive experience for my husband. He came back from Nashville with a happy attitude and would not stop talking about his trip for almost a week. His song is going to be awesome.”  She also says Stevan feels very strongly about helping others before himself, which is expressed through the lyrics of his song “Grab My Pack”.  For those of you who don’t know, the title of Stevan’s song refers to the way in which Marines help one another during a struggle.

 Stevan says he supports the CreatiVets program and hopes to see it become a major role in helping veterans relieve stress.  As mentioned before, Stevan often thinks of others before himself.  What would make him most happy would be to see other veterans benefit from the program in the same way he has.

See Stevan’s song below (Sung by Dave Pittenger)