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The Power of Music

Soldier Songs helps vets find their voice

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Chuck Hemingway is a soldier with a song. He wrote the lyrics for "Outside The Wire Again" and the song was put to music by Mark Quon. The song sheds light on the ghostly images that haunt him and the way his mind travels back to the deafening roar of an ambush: "John buddy what went wrong?" he asks.

Chorus to "Outside The Wire Again," by Chuck Hemingway:

"And the call comes from the CP

Saddle up and move 'em out

Years ago that was now

Another time and another place

The feelin' comes on so suddenly

I'm back there, my mind's a scary place

I'm outside the wire again."

Soldier Songs is a veteran support program with 11 chapters in six states and the organization does something so simple as to be brilliant. Each group gives singing and songwriting lessons to armed forces veterans, creating an outlet for veterans to speak, sing and write songs about their war time experiences. Having the opportunity to do this with other veterans creates a much needed solidarity for those emotions to be released.

Music as a tool of healing is an idea that has been gaining more traction over the years as its continued success with veterans, sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and others attest.

The Bend chapter of Soldier Songs and Voices popped up in 2013, shortly before another group started in Portland. The fundraisers that the organization presents help purchase guitars for the veterans to work on their songs. Those songs are being added to a compilation being produced by the parent version of Soldier Songs and Voices in Austin, Texas.

The opening acts of the Tower event on May 17 are locals with deep roots in the Bend Soldier Songs community. Mark Quon is one of the organizers of the Bend chapter, and the country band Loose Gravel was actually formed out of the Bend meetings.

Bill Valenti, a co-founder of the Central Oregon chapter of Soldier Songs, recruited Beth Wood for the event. He says, "We've been gathering to share music for the past three years and we decided it's time to reach beyond our Central Oregon circle and explore new ways to help veterans heal through music." Valenti, a local singer-songwriter, is known for political and social commentary protest songs.

Wood is a part of the Sisters Folk Festival and will be headlining with the Strong Hold Trio at the Soldier Songs and Voices benefit at the Tower Theatre. Her many albums are available on CDBaby and iTunes. The Stronghold Trio is made up of local pianist Andy Armer, guitarist/vocalist Richard Taelour and drummer Justin Veloso. Armer is a Grammy-nominee for his piece RISE, which was performed by Herb Alpert in 1979.

"My family has been touched by war, as have most families," says Wood. "My grandfather was a purple heart veteran of WWII, and back then the term PTSD did not exist. Our family struggled and suffered with the aftermath of his experience, and the ripple effects of that suffering still reverberate. It means a great deal to me personally to be a part of this event," says Wood. "I have wanted to be involved with Soldier Songs ever since I heard about the organization and the important work they are doing." She adds, "Sometimes it is easy to feel helpless and think there is nothing you can do to help, but one thing I can do is sing." Wood considers it an honor to be asked to sing for this cause.

"Beyond the Wire," by Hemingway, will be performed by Quon at the benefit, representing the collaboration between a veteran and songwriter.

Soldier Songs Presents Beth Wood and Stronghold Trio

Tuesday, May 17, 7 p.m.

Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend

Reserved Seating, $25, $30

SoldierSongs Central Oregon meets on the third Monday of each month at Kelly D's Irish Pub/Sports Bar, 6:30 p.m.

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