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: https://soundcloud.com/#creativets/yellow-balloon