Honoring soldiers with music
July 23, 2009
MUSIC, for most people, is a natural and pervasive part of life. It's everywhere-on your MP3 player, the radio, or stuck on repeat in your head. It helps express otherwise inexpressible feelings, and serves to calm nerves. Music is also a great way to remember things and can be used as a teaching tool. The JamsBio project from Mouth Watering Media harnesses that emotional and academic power to pay tribute to American servicemembers.
Officially launched in March, "Honoring the American Soldier" on JamsBio collects special stories and dedications of music to share with others, with the goal of honoring American servicemembers, said Matt Williams, project founder and MWM president.
The project started during a brainstorming session, Williams explained, that led MWM to a tribute album the band Queensryche was putting together for servicemembers, called "American Soldier." The album, which is compiled from interviews with military personnel, inspired MWM to do a project that involved military members and families telling their stories through music.
"We know that music has a healing quality, it has an ability to get somebody through hard times," Williams said. He hopes this project will help servicemembers heal and provide strength and hope to them through music.
Open to all services and components, "Honoring the American Soldier" has already received many song dedications from both military members and their families. First Sgt. CJ Grisham posted an entry with the song "Times Like These" by the Foo Fighters to honor the lessons he learned while deployed and to remember the Soldiers he served with.
"My whole life, as long as I can remember, music has played a huge part in my life," Grisham said. "I really, really clung to music as a way to deal with any problem I had or any emotion, whether it was good, bad, happy, sad, whatever."
Deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a counter-intelligence special agent, his unit's job "was to find the guys who were planting improvised explosive devices; find the guys who were funding, building and then placing IEDs, killing civilians" and targeting U.S. forces, Grisham said. His unit captured eight of the 55 most-wanted insurgents while deployed.
"(Music) gets you motivated, it calms you down, it gets your mind off the things you've witnessed and done and seen, and it allows us to remember that we're human," Grisham added. Music reminds Soldiers that there are ordinary people back home listening to the same songs, and that they can connect with those people through a shared interest in a song, he explained.
While in Iraq, Grisham's wife sent him "Times Like These" because she thought he would like it. The Foo Fighters' front man was the former drummer for Nirvana, and Grisham was a Nirvana fan.
"(The song) really kind of spoke to me because it urges you to keep going, you know' These trying times that we are going through, they really teach you what's important about life," he said.
Now, whenever Grisham hears that song, it reminds him of times relaxing after a mission with his unit.
"I really think that music plays a very integral part in troops' lives, especially in a combat environment, because you're constantly on the go and your senses are constantly heightened. And if all you did was come back and sit in your room, you'd go crazy," Grisham said.
The same is true for civilians, especially for the spouses of those who are deployed. Joy Boyce, wife of Spc. Earl "Doug" Boyce, believes she stays connected to her husband through music. Doug, as she calls him, is currently deployed to Iraq and working long hours as a tanker and resident "post artist."
"I feel that our Soldiers need to know, as much as possible, that we are thinking of them at home," Boyce said. JamsBio offers a way to publicly acknowledge the service of loved ones who are deployed.
"JamsBio helps me to deal with deployment by giving and sharing the feelings associated with deployment," she added.
Boyce and her husband were married in Alaska a mere three weeks before he was deployed. She dedicated Etta James' "At Last" to her husband, because it helps her feel romantically connected to him.
"My husband took my hand and pulled me to my feet and began to dance with me," Boyce said, recalling when the song played during their honeymoon. "He held me close and, of course, dipped me at the end of the song. I began to cry because of the impending deployment and he promised me then there would be many, many more slow dances in the future. I felt so loved and so lucky. Now when I hear 'At Last,' it is everything to me-it is my happiness, my sadness, my heart, my love."
Doug doesn't post anything to JamsBio because of the long hours he works-any time spent online is used to communicate directly with his wife and other family members through video-chat, he explained. However, Doug was very excited to hear "At Last."
"That's her dedication to me. It was pretty nice," he said of the post, adding that the song held special significance other than the association with his honeymoon. "When I get home 'at last' we'll be able to be together."
If Doug were to dedicate a song to his wife on JamsBio, he said it would be "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, which was their wedding song.
"(My wife) sent me a ukulele and I said I was going to learn how to play the song for her. I'm horrible at it," he laughed. "Either way it will be nice; I'm going to play it."
For many servicemembers, music is a way to keep grounded and connected to those they love. JamsBio provides a way to communicate feelings to loved ones that may have remained unexpressed, as well as a public outlet to help better understand the self.
"It's a really cool project," Doug said. "It lets people voice their ideas and feelings and gives people a way to express themselves. It's an outlet. It's very helpful."
Check out more song dedications at <a href="http://jamsbio.com/american-soldier">http://jamsbio.com/american-soldier</a>.