Heroes’ Voices began its programming at the VA facility in Menlo Park, California. We began with a series of singing and poetry workshops and a year later began our “Guitar Corps” programs. To date, we have served hundreds of veterans at that facility. While we have expanded our programming to more facilities all over northern California, Menlo Park still feels like our home base.
When we do our singing and poetry workshops we typically do eight weeks in a row on Saturday mornings. Most of the participants are veterans in residency programs including Drug and Alcohol, Blindness Rehab, Poly-Trauma and PTSD. Local veterans from the community and volunteers also attend these workshops.
These are very special workshops, especially because so many of the vets share their poetry and even original songs. Last year we actually published a book of veterans’ poetry that was written in our workshops. Here’s a beautiful poem written in a workshop last year:
The Past Cannot Change Our Song
— Tristan Carson, US Army Veteran
The past cannot change my song
Neither should the dreams of the future
Sweep my tune away
For my song is strongest
When I reside in today
No more hurrying and scurrying
Rushing down that road
Looking for someone
To fill in the missing years
My song is my strength
And in it I find a light
To guide me home
To the bright morning,
I always arrive early on Saturdays to set up for the workshops, set up the furniture and the piano, and tune the guitars, etc. One morning I was the first one to arrive in the building except for one young veteran. He was in the PTSD treatment program there and was active both in our singing and “Guitar Corps” programs.
Since we had some time alone, I figured it was a great opportunity for me to get some real one-on-one feedback from one of the participants. So I said, “I’d love to get your opinion on the workshops we’re doing here. What works, what doesn’t work, what would you like more or less of?
He thought for a moment then responded, “I feel safe here. Since returning home from my deployment in Iraq, I am afraid to go outside and to be in public. See, in Iraq we never knew what innocent package might blow up, or what innocent child might pull out a weapon and try kill you. I experienced that all too often. So now back home I still can’t go to the grocery store or to a movie without feeling fear. When I’m here making music with fellow veterans I feel safe. Please just keep doing these workshops for us.”