By Sgt. Mike Pryor, 82nd Airborne DivisionNovember 15, 2006
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, Nov. 15, 2006) - When Angela Lashley first heard that her paratrooper son, Pvt. Jonathan Wisniewski, was being deployed to Iraq, she was devastated.
"I just went numb for several days," Lashley said.
But rather than be overwhelmed, Lashley, a singer-songwriter from Nashville, Tenn., decided to channel the mixture of emotions she was feeling into a song.
The result was "So Brave," a four-and-a-half-minute exploration of a mother's sense of wonder at her Soldier-son's bravery that is now becoming popular among military families and has even gained a fan in First Lady Laura Bush.
While the song has received a tremendous response from everyone who has heard it, Lashley said, there was really only one critic she cared about winning over: her son.
Lashley was initially fearful that Wisniewski, a support specialist with the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, would be embarrassed by the song and all the attention. But, in fact, just the opposite happened.
"I thought I was going to be embarrassed, but in the end I was proud," said Wisniewski, via e-mail from Iraq. "When I first heard the song, I thought about my family and my parents because my mom was singing, but ultimately I became more motivated and kind of had a new sense of pride in what I was doing over the ocean here."
Wisniweski's fellow Soldiers also liked the song, he said.
"One of my friends actually requested more of her music, which I thought spoke volumes not only about her song but how talented my ma really is," Wisniweski said.
That talent has shown itself off-and-on over the past two decades as Lashley juggled the demands of raising a family with her goal of being a recording artist. She said she writes songs "when inspiration hits," which means she sometimes goes years between songs. Among her biggest hits is a song she wrote during the first Persian Gulf War, also dedicated to American Soldiers.
The idea for "So Brave" came when she was coming to terms with her feelings about Wisniewski's deployment, Lashley said.
"(Having a son serving the nation at war) is a noble and wonderful thing, but for a mother it's also terrifying," she said. "It's difficult to revel in your son's bravery while you shudder at it at the same time."
As she was sorting through her feelings, Lashley kept coming back to memories of her son's bravery as a boy, like when he stood up for a friend against bullies, or kept playing on the school football team despite a debilitating illness. Those memories made her realize that Jonathan had always been brave, even before he put on an Army uniform.
When the song was finished, Lashley had CDs made with a picture of her and her son on the cover. The song, the CD artwork says, is dedicated to "all American Soldiers."
The song should soon get airtime on the radio, Lashley said. For now, the song is spreading mainly by word-of-mouth, especially among mothers of servicemembers. The reasons for that are obvious, Lashley said.
"Every Soldier's mother who has heard the song has a comparable story," she said.
As a result, "So Brave" has received the official endorsement of the Blue Star Mothers of America, a patriotic group comprised of mothers of children serving in the military. Lashley often performs the song at events sponsored by the Blue Star Mothers.
"What a beautiful song of love from a mother to her son. I can still feel and understand those words of hope, love and concern for a child no longer protected by his mom, but now out there protecting us," said Chris Peche, president of the San Antonio, Texas, chapter of Blue Star Mothers.
It was the Blue Star Mothers' endorsement that led to Mrs. Bush hearing the song, and then subsequently asking for a personal copy, Lashley said. It also generated publicity that led to an invite to perform on Fox News personality Sean Hannity's program.
But despite all the publicity, Lashley said she would trade it all to have her son come home safely. The song says, "If you ship out in September, will my Christmas wish bring you home by December'" So far, Wisniewski has assured his mom, it looks like her wish will be granted.
But Wisniewski said even when he is home safely with his family the song will continue to speak to anyone who is deployed.
"The song isn't just about me, but all the brave Soldiers, marines, airmen and seamen who have to come over here and be away from their families for extended periods of time. That's what this song is all about. We are all 'So Brave' over here," he said