We sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone at a Heroes’ Voices workshop at the Yountville Cal-Vet Home. When we got to the verse, “Where have all the soldiers gone”, one vet began to cry, and then she left the room. The next week, I asked if she was okay with what had happened. “Oh, yes!” she said, “After several years of silence, I now sing in the shower and so does my heart. Thank you for bringing me peace, happiness and real joy.”
If you’ve been subscribing to our newsletter you already know this story. But please take a moment on this Veterans Day to recognize that this is just one of many thousands of stories of how the lives of veterans have been impacted by their selfless service in the military.
Thanks to the past generosity of our donors, we have been honored to bring the gifts of music and poetry to veterans who have given so much to our country. Will you help us today?
I watched an older veteran dance to the music at a Heroes’ Voices workshop at the Livermore VA. He was really going to town, dancing alone, floating in circles with his arms outstretched like Zorba the Greek. After a while I realized that this dancer was blind, but he somehow navigated the zone between the tables and the band. Then I noticed a much younger veteran in a wheelchair who was watching the dancer with a wistful look on his face. When I looked more closely, I saw that the young man in the wheelchair had no feet.
For many veterans the road back to civilian life is an extremely difficult one. In the past year we have expanded our services so we can assist more veterans with their recovery process:
- In the past year, we have reached more veterans than ever before, conducting over 200 workshops in six facilities in the Bay Area and providing scores of free guitars and harmonicas to veterans across the USA.
- We now work in a comprehensive variety of settings: closed environments (San Francisco County Jail and the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit at the Fort Miley VA Hospital in San Francisco), open settings within the VA system (Menlo Park VA Center), and completely public settings (the Veterans Building in San Francisco’s Civic Center).
- While our primary focus is on music, we continue to add more poetry to our workshops.
At the same time, we have strengthened the power of our voice for veterans:
- We have more than doubled the number of our Facebook followers from 850 in October, 2015 to more than 2,000 today. This enables us to reach out to more veterans and build better relationships with all people who care about veterans and veterans’ issues.
- We have met with key movers and shakers in the Bay Area and in Washington, DC, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Tim Walz (D-MN), and senior staffers from the Pentagon and the Department of Defense.
Looking ahead to 2017, we need your support so that we can continue to expand the reach and power of our work:
- The first annual National Poetry Contest for Veterans. Watch for details, coming soon.
- Programming with George Mason University, the largest public research university in Virginia, offering degrees in Music, Music and Wellness, and Music and Technology. George Mason University recently established the “Veterans and the Arts Initiative”.
- Collaborative endeavors with private and government Veterans’ organizations in Washington and New York.
At another Cal-Vet workshop, a vet told me that he has been losing his ability to speak as his illness advances. He also said, “Since I’ve been singing with you, my voice has gotten stronger. Thank you for giving me back my voice.”.
We greatly appreciate the generosity of our donors, but the veterans we serve appreciate it even more. Without your support, these veterans would not be enjoying the benefits of music and poetry in their lives.