Heroes’ Voices participates in a monthly Bluegrass Jam at the VA Hospital in Livermore, a gathering of Bay Area musicians who play for a group of veterans during and after their dinner. The Livermore VA is on a beautiful tract of land surrounded by vineyards. The building is at the top of a long hill with a field just in front. We musicians arrive just as evening falls, when dozens of deer and turkeys quietly feed in the fading sunset light.
The residents at the Livermore VA are a mix of older and severely injured veterans. The first time I did the jam, there was an older veteran wearing an Air Force hat, who started to dance in front of us, and he kept it up for quite a while. He was really going to town, dancing alone, floating in circles with his arms outstretched, like Zorba the Greek. I was reminded of a phrase from the great James Taylor song, Copperline:
One time I saw my daddy dance
Watched him moving like a man in a trance
He brought it back from the war in France
Down onto Copperline.
After a while I noticed that this elderly dancing veteran was blind, but he somehow navigated the zone between the tables and the band.
At some point a much younger veteran wheeled himself in right in front, listening to the band, intently focusing on the blind dancer. There was a wistful look on the younger man’s face as he watched the dancer spin to the music. Then I looked more closely at that young vet in the wheelchair.
He had no feet.