Can A Song Heal The Invisible Wounds Of War?

Richard Casper, a Marine veteran, took a disabled Marine named Jesse to some “experts” to help him heal. Not doctors, musicians. You see, when Richard himself was dealing with the effects of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) he discovered that writing his story down helped. Turning those stories into songs helped even more. He decided he wanted other vets to experience the tremendous difference this could make. So Richard brought Jesse to Nashville and with the help of the band, Blackjack Billy, Jesse was able to put to music things that were hard to say. It was a life-changing experience for him.

I first became aware of this from Richard’s friend and my fellow blogger, Mother Goose. When I listened to the song I was very moved because some of the lyrics were words I’ve heard before from different troops. It was beautiful and painful at the same time.


Their next goal is to raise $5,000 to produce a music video. If you’d like to be an honorary Producer in this, click here.  If you’d like to help share Jesse’s song, “Til It Feels Like Home,” I know they’d greatly appreciate that.

More voices

I think for vets, and for anyone who loves them, sharing their story can be incredibly healing. While not everyone may know Richard, anyone can access StoryCorps. I found out about them when I attended an IAVA (Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America) event.

StoryCorps says: Over the last ten years, 2.4 million men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and millions of families have stood behind them at home. The military community knows well the challenges of multiple deployments, combat injuries, and long-awaited homecomings. Yet few civilians truly understand the complex realities of our troops’ service and sacrifice.

The Military Voices Initiative (MVI) amplifies their important stories and lets them know that we–as a nation–are listening.

Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The stories are short, powerful, and cover so many perspectives. I listened to a soldier who had sent his wife (also a soldier) on the mission that took her life. I listened to curious kids interview their mom about what she felt like when she had to deploy. And how they felt about her being gone for a year. I listened to a man talk about one of the best days of his life- welcoming his brother home from Iraq. I listened to a father who traveled to Iraq wanting to kneel on the ground where his son had died.

Sometimes, all you need to do is listen. I think Richard and Jesse would agree.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

8 thoughts on “Can A Song Heal The Invisible Wounds Of War?

  1. I have known, loved and listened to veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Falkland Islands, Desert Storm, and Iraq…they would all join in and sing this song together. It has been an honor.

    • Music is so powerful. I’m happy our vets have a way to express things that are difficult to share. Richard hopes to start a non-profit and bring more vets and musicians together. I hope that Jesse is the first of many that can be helped this way.

  2. The song was very special. Yes, I cried, but I still wanted to hear more. I know I will be playing it again . Then I will cry, pray, and listen again. Thanks for making this possible for me.

    • Aww Nana, didn’t mean to make you cry. But very happy that you were touched. I’m trying to imagine what it must be like to keep all that bottled up inside. I’m glad Jesse doesn’t have to anymore.

  3. I LOVED that video and song! Music is such a wonderful healer/soother/spirit-lifter. What a fantastic idea Richard had, bringing Jesse together with Blackjack Billy. Infinitely more therapeutic than anything TBI rehab could accomplish. I hope this “therapy” catches on. I’m a huge fan of Storycorps, and think that’s also a terrific vehicle for healing through deep connections with another human being.

    • I love it too! As a physician, I know you’ve seen many kinds of therapy and I couldn’t agree with you more about the value of this one. A sailor wrote to me about a band that works with patients at Walter Reed, so I’m hoping that it is catching on! And I’m now a huge fan of StoryCorps as well for enabling those healing connections.

  4. What powerful lyrics! Jesse did a great job of expressing some very complicated feelings in his song. It’s terrible to feel alone, to feel no one can understand the suffering one is carrying inside. One needs to purge oneself, to shed one’s pain. And what better way than being able to share one’s story through music, writing and art.

    • I got goosebumps the first time I heard it. I think the emotional isolation some troops endure is a cruel “bonus pain” on top of what they’ve been through. I can’t imagine what that’s like. But songs like this, I understand. Music, and other art forms, provide a beautiful bridge or translation. I’m happy for both Richard and Jesse that they found ways to share their story. And grateful that so many people chose to listen.

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