2017 California Outreach Report

Wanted to thank you for your donation which made my February trip California possible.  Here is a report of the trip. 

Warrior Songs outreach trip report (2/6/2016 to 2/13/2016) 

2/6/2016 – I arrived in San Diego Late in the evening; a voice came over the loudspeaker as I waited for my bags.  “You might want to dig your jackets out of your bags before you go outside.  It’s a very cold 62 degrees out there”.  I laughed so hard water came out my nose.  I got to the hotel and went to bed. 

2/7/2016 – I spent the day enjoying the sunshine and walking around Old Town San Diego.  Around 2pm, I headed to my room to rehearse. Marilyn Cornell, my point of contact (POC) from the San Diego Veterans Village (SDVV) picked me up and I had dinner there.  SDVV is a place where homeless veterans recovering from substance abuse can come to heal.  They are allowed to stay for up to 2 years while attending classes to recover and improve their lives.  I had been there back in 2012 and was amazed by the improvements made to the facilities.  I performed that evening for about 60 veterans.  The show went well and I gave a copy of both “Trying to Find My Way Home” and “If You Have to Ask… Warrior Songs Vol. 1” to each of them.  One of the highlights of the performance was when I told the group, “If you are ever feeling like giving up, like nobody cares about you.  Remember that 13 people you’ve never met paid for my plane ticket so I could fly from Wisconsin to San Diego to perform for you tonight.”  There were tears. 

2/8/2017 – I went back to SSDV for an afternoon songwriting workshop with a music class.  For 90 minutes, myself and eight other veterans worked on writing a song about what it is like to be a homeless veteran heroin addict living on the streets.  One of the veterans already had chords to a song so we used them.  I was amazed at the candor they had as they described trying to find a place to get high and go to sleep, the feeling of all the pain going away, and the searing reality that sets in when you wake up a realize where you are.  They told me how they took care of basic needs like showering and using the bathroom.  They also spoke of how there was a point in their lives when they knew where they were headed but felt unable to stop it.  They spoke of what SDVV brought to them.  I recorded the session and am working on finishing the song and release it on Warrior Songs Vol. 3 (2020).  That evening I got a ride from my next POC Lisa Raggio to the San Diego conference center where I played for a Firefighter Cancer Awareness benefit.  After that, we drove 2 hours north to Pasadena, CA where I met with my host family Trã and Maggie Cooper-Harris.  They graciously allowed me to stay with them free of charge for the Los Angeles leg of my journey.  It was this free lodging in L.A. that allowed me budget spending two days in San Diego. 

2/9/2017 – Usually when I do these trips, I am not able to really take any time for myself, as I have to play multiple events to fundraise to pay for the trip.  Because of the generous donors, I was able to spend Thursday with my host Trã.  I interviewed Trã for our upcoming “Women at War: Warrior Song Vol. 2” Due out November 2018.  After that, we went to Unbreakable Performance Center in Hollywood, CA for a workout with an organization called Merging Vets and Players (MVP).  I got a great work out and got to meet Nate Boyer (former Green Beret and NFL player), Randy "The Natural" Couture (Actor & 5 time UFC Champion), and about 40 veterans all of which got a copy of either “Trying” or “WS Vol 1”.  It was an intense workout, which reminded me I need to get back into shape. 

2/10/2017 – I spent the day recovering from my work out.  Climbing the stairs hurt and reminded me that I need to do more lower bodywork.  I traveled to Wellness Works in Glendale California.  I have played at Wellness works twice before and was glad to return.  The afternoon was spent leading a songwriting workshop with their veteran’s writer group.  The normal writing workshop leader LeiL.A.ni Squire gave me carte blanche to create.  Poets & Writers' Readings & Workshops program sponsored the event.  I had the veterans tell me who they were before they left, what like was life during their worst PTSD times, and who they are now that they’ve begun healing.  We worked for about an hour and a half and then I had one hour before my evening show.  I used that time to quickly write a song from the work we had done in the writers group.  I performed that evening at Wellness Works for about 20 people.  California was getting some much-needed rain after a 5-year drought, but sadly, the rain kept the crowd away.  The highlight was having the veterans from the writing workshop read the work they had created.  I closed with the song I had written from their work.  I hope to release this song on Warrior Songs Vol. 3 (2020). 

2/11/2017 – Trã and I went down to The Los Angeles Theater Center for the awards show.  In typical military fashion, we showed up 15 minutes early and everyone else showed up 15 minutes late.  I met and talked with many people.  Some were very “Hollywood” and others were very down to earth.  There were many celebrities there who I did not recognize.  I met a lot of band members from famous people’s bands who were in town for Grammys.  I meet Lindsay Wagner who had been a hero of Trã’s as a child.  I gave away all the CD’s and business cards I had with me.  We found one other veteran in the crowd.   I was honored to receive the global peace song award.  I had hoped to talk about my project, but they didn’t allow us to speak when we went up to receive our awards.  After I got the award, some of the more “Hollywood” type people who hadn’t been interested in talking to me moments before suddenly were my best friend.  After the award show, I took Trã out for BBQ to thank her and Maggie for hosting me in L.A. 

2/12/2017 - I met with Gail Soffer of the Mindful Warrior Project and we went to Los Angeles National Cemetery for the 25th annual Abraham Lincoln memorial event.  I had been scheduled to play for an hour but got cut to one song.  I performed “Trying to Find My Way Home” for a crowd of about 60 people many of whom were veterans.  An old friend from High School stopped down.  There was also a person who had seen me perform in California back in 2012 who was there.  Afterwards Gail and I ate lunch and headed to my final show.  I presented “7 Things You Never Say to a Veteran” at Brentwood Presbyterian Church to a small crowd.  The Grammys kept many people home.  Wendy Barranco stopped down to hear the presentation.  Wendy and I were both featured in the documentary “On the Bridge”.  We had never actually met before so we went out to dinner.  We had a great discussion and she agreed to be interviewed for our upcoming “Woman at War: Warrior Songs Vol. 2” cd.  I got home late and packed my stuff for the flight home. 

2/13/2017 – On an expensive Uber ride to the airport I talked with an immigrant who was a United States Army veteran.  Him and his brother had immigrated to the US and served in the Military.  His brother wasn’t doing well so I gave him my last copy of “Trying to Find My Way Home” to give to his brother.  He was driving Uber but wanted to be a director, which is so very “Los Angeles”.  I boarded the plane and tried to rest.  I was glad to be going home after a very successful outreach! 

Fast Fact 

Miles driven: 554 
Miles flown: 1849 

CD’s given away 
Trying to Find My Way Home: 155 
Warrior Songs Vol 1: 180 

Veterans met: 116 
Shows performed: 6 
Songwriter workshops: 2 
Interviews for story to song: 4 

Read a nice blog piece about my visit by Leilani Squire, who leads the Wellness Works Veteran Writers Group http://returningsoldiersspeak.org/blog/what-do-you-sing-witness/ 

See pictures of my trip here https://www.warriorsongs.org/media

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