Filed Under:

Vets Write Music To Heal The Wounds Of War

Play associated audio

Veterans Day is the day when Americans remember and thank members of the armed forces who fought in foreign wars. Nearly 1.4 million men and women have left the service since serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. A group of musicians in San Marcos, Texas, just down the highway from Austin, has started a songwriting workshop especially for returning veterans, believing that composing music can help a person heal from the wounds of war.

Beefy former Marine Buddy Lee Dobberteen is a regular at the weekly songwriters circle at Cheatham Street Warehouse, a renowned club in San Marcos that smells of ashtrays and spilled beer. The 31-year-old former platoon sergeant is trying to fashion a life back home after three tours in Iraq. Wounded by a roadside bomb and rifle fire, he says he is 100 percent disabled, and suffering from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple other injuries. For five years, Sgt. Dobberteen survived the war in Iraq. Now, musician Buddy Lee Dobberteen wants to write a good song.

"My goal is to become a professional songwriter in the business," Dobberteen says. "Actually my goal is to help other veterans to realize you don't need to sit in your room with a handgun. There's a better life out there for you to live. Your life wasn't over in Iraq — it gave you a helluva lot of songs, you know?"

Doberteen lives with his wife, Tyra, a schoolteacher, in the hill country west of San Marcos. He drives to a VA hospital in San Antonio periodically for continuing operations on his hand, shoulder and knee. Because the bomb blast injured his eyes, he wears dark glasses even in the dim bar.

"I wanted to be a career Marine and it didn't work out," Doberteen says. "It's funny because God actually told me I was gonna write songs and I didn't have the ability. So how am I ever going to write a song?"

The project has come to be known as Voices of a Grateful Nation. That's also the title of two CDs of songs written and performed by Texas artists in honor of returning veterans. One of the project's co-founders was Charlie Gallagher, a drummer and real estate broker.

"I felt like it was important when we went into the war that when these boys came home that we did something we didn't do for my friends that came back from Vietnam," Gallagher says.

About 30 vets have come through the songwriting program in its four years of existence. Most have accepted a free guitar, listened to some pointers from the pros, and drifted off. Mentor and up-and-coming Austin singer-songwriter Dustin Welch says "a lot of 'em are pretty beat up." He's at the club every Monday night to work with the vets who want to learn how to compose a song.

"You know, it's a way of talking about this stuff without having to stand up and be feeling like they're pouring their heart our or be sitting on a couch talking to a therapist or anything," Welch says.

Dobberteen is the most successful — and ambitious — student the songwriters workshop has had. He's using the GI bill to take an online class in studio production with the Berklee College of Music, he fronts his own band and he's a passionate songwriter. It's a far cry from his mental state when he left the Marines and moved to Texas.

"I literally wanted to commit suicide, and I'm productive," Dobberteen says. "Next week I'm goin' on tour. The only other tour I was doing was bar to bar to drink all the beer outta the bars at night, raisin' hell. And now I got a purpose. What more can you ask for out of an organization?"

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Hieronymus Bosch Died 500 Years Ago, But His Art Will Still Creep You Out

Known by some as "the Devil's painter," Bosch depicted imaginary animals and souls being violently tortured. At least one critic believes he's the father of modern art.
NPR

With A Zap, Scientists Create Low-Fat Chocolate

Scientists say they've figured out how to reduce the fat in milk chocolate by running it through an electric field. The result is healthier, but is it tastier?
WAMU 88.5

Analysis Of The Last Supreme Court Decisions Of The Term

Supreme Court decisions are expected soon on issues that include access to abortion and limits on executive power: Analysis of major decisions at the end of the term and the impact of a vacant seat on the court.

NPR

President Obama Acknowledges 'Brexit' To Silicon Valley Crowd

President Obama delivered a speech Friday at Stanford University, and remarked on the Brexit vote in front of a crowd of young, tech-forward, pro-globalization attendees from 170 countries.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.