We called this journey Songwriters for Soldiers: Singing Their Stories. We explained it to participants as a healing retreat of songwriting…not too appealing to Soldiers. Most Soldiers have defended their memories just as they stoically defended their brothers in battle.
There is irony in calling this journey a retreat. One definition of retreat is “withdrawal of a military force from a dangerous position or from an enemy attack.” We were asking the Soldiers to let their guard down – even though this felt risky, we invited them to surrender…to tell their stories.
And they did. The faces frozen in both physical and emotional pain, only 36 hours before, now gleam like full moons. They each spent 10 or more hours with acclaimed songwriters…initially, some staring quietly, but when the talking, laughing, and shedding of tears came, the memories that had once bound them were loosened. They were resuscitated with one each other’s breath and mere presence.
I know there is healing in listening and comfort through sharing – but we wait until someone grants us permission…The songwriters, the organizers from SAFE: Soldiers and Families Embraced and The Beat of Life gave the Soldiers permission. We were prepared to listen and be still – as long as we needed to be. Not everyone left with a completed song, but everyone left with a new song of hope for tomorrow. Soldiers, songwriters and staff.
We are each called to open our hearts to feel, to hear one another’s burdens and to be present for one another with love. There is truth in love. There is peace offered in listening. And there is hope in sharing.
But the journey of telling is a two way journey…will you be a part of someone’s journey?
SAFE: Soldiers and Families Embraced (www.thesafenetwork.org) and The Beat of Life (thebeatoflife.org) organized the Songwriters for Soldiers retreat…this was the first of many healing journeys through song.