What do you sing, witness?

Leilani SquireBlog1 Comment

Recently, singer/songwriter Jason Moon facilitated a writing workshop and performed at Wellness Works, a resource center focusing on healing the body and soul of veterans and the family members of veterans. Jason was deployed to Iraq and returned home changed, and plunged into despair and isolation until he started to write music again. He now helps other veterans navigate their journey home through writing, putting the writing to music, and then sings and records the songs that have been written.

As I sat in the studio with others in the community, listening to Jason sing the song he had just written in the 45 minutes between the writing workshop and his performance, I was swept into the world we had just experienced. I fell into the feelings and the meaning of the song—Jason’s quest to find how to say what he wanted to say about surfacing from the sadness and despair and shame and hopelessness and isolation of our darkest hour. That hour that seems to stretch into the endless beyond—stretching and stretching as it wraps around our bellies and throats, squeezing out light and hope. I felt tears well inside a deep gratitude. I was witnessing something special. I was witnessing the healing of the wounds of war. I heard words and phrases that were written and spoken during the writing workshops. I heard scattered pieces—fragments of what we once were—rising, and being put back—piece by piece. Not exactly who we were before but wiser, more compassionate. A better person because of that darkness. Because of that surfacing.

Is it possible that the combination of art, words, and music—merged and married into song—allows a combat veteran to tell what he needs to tell, and for the daughter of a veteran who served during three wars to listen and to know? It’s hard to put into words, but I must continue to try because this is where meaning exists—the making of song, the sharing of stories—stories born from the experiences of life and the experience of a spiritual death. Is this when connections can be made and understanding can grow? When the true healing can begin?

Is it possible that the combination of art, words, and music—merged and married into song—allows a combat veteran to tell what he needs to tell, and for the daughter of a veteran who served during three wars to listen and to know?

I only know that I was listening to the birth of something that Jason had been searching for, for a long time. I was listening to what the participants of the Deadly Writers Platoon have also been searching for, for a long time. I was mesmerized, proud and grateful to have experienced this afternoon of this work. It is the real work of exploring and discovering through dialogue and writing, the work that goes beyond the walls of perception, and breaks down the barriers that hold us to a place of isolation, impotency and meaninglessness.

Listening to Jason sing the song born of our collective journey, well, my heart grew beyond the walls of that room, beyond the confines of my limitations, and I experienced a sense of sky and my father bearing witness to the song. My father loved to listen to music and dance his whacky back and forth leg-kicking step. He loved country music, much like Jason was singing. He would have loved this song. What words and phrases would he have contributed to the lyrics? What experiences of his thirty years serving in the Navy would he have uncovered and confessed in words and phrases? Maybe that’s another song.

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About the Author
Leilani Squire

Leilani Squire

Leilani Squire is the Founder and Director of Returning Soldiers Speak. She was born at Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu while her father, Grant R. Squire, was deployed on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Okinawa during the Korean War. She is a writer, creativity coach, and since 2010, has been working with veterans and their families to help them tell their stories.

One Comment on “What do you sing, witness?”

  1. Ken Klemm

    A very thought-provoking piece, as always. I wish I could have been there, I bet it was quite a day. I have one of Jason’s CDs, which you gave me, and I have listened to it a few times. I think the creative arts, whatever they be, allow us sometimes to go places that maybe just coming right out and saying won’t allow us to do. Speaking for me, I know the futility and danger of self-denial and suppression, and the importance of dealing with issues that we would not rather deal with. Returning Soldiers Speak does a wonderful job of giving veterans the avenue and the space to take that journey that may for a time go through very dark places but which ultimately leads through to the path of healing.

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