Operation Song: Songwriters using the power of their pen to help veterans heal

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A melody of memories plucking at the heartstrings of those who lived it and those who help create it. “There’s no better way to create understanding than with a song,” said writer Bob Regan.

Rehan has written hit songs for Reba McEntire, Tayna Tucker, Trisha Yearwood, Billy Ray Cirus, Terry Clark, Jake Owen, and Keith Urban. Chasing chart-toppers is a tiring cycle, and that became clear when Regan realized the power of his pen could strike a chord in those who needed it most, veterans. “How can I do something that will rise up to give some level of validation to the sacrifice that they paid to have this story?” Regan asked himself.

Stories of untimely transitions.

“The Army didn’t need me anymore,” explained medically retired Army 1SG Mike Byer.

To lifelong regrets.

“We were drunk,” recalled Vietnam veteran Terry Gould. “I went through the windshield [and was] pronounced dead at the scene. They transported me to Philadelphia Navy Hospital where I spent 15 months with wounded Marines from Vietnam. I felt so much shame and guilt, and I still do. That’s where Operation Song has helped me.”

The non-profit created by Regan, pairs accomplished songwriters with veterans for a day. What follows is a master class in musicianship and mending minds. “Get people talking for an hour, maybe two even three hours, sometimes without ever picking up the guitar,” Regans said. “It’s like you’re opening the tumblers of the lock. Then you turn your hat around, and it’s time to be the songwriter and you got to nail it.”

“He picks up the guitar and he starts playing a song and it just broke me down,” recalled Byer, now the Program Director for Operation Song. “It’s me and my son’s song.”

Gould eventually made friends with those healing on the VA ward. “He had an old beat-up Buick and that was our limousine. It was the easiest way to get Earl Ray over to Rosie’s, cause he had both legs gone and his arm gone,” Gould said.

The tale, now told in tune, takes Gould to a place he’s spent decades longing for. Gould described it as a calming effect, and, not just for him. “I’ve seen it over, and over, every time. There are several vets that will tell you this program saved their lives.”

Overcoming the lingering stress of war – News 2 looks at what’s being done to help those who have served keep their voices heard in special reports all-day Veterans Day, in every newscast, and on wkrn.com.

A crescendo in healing thanks in part to newfound harmonies.

More than 1,000 songs have come from the project. To learn more about Operation Song, click here.

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