2017 Wisconsin Outreach Report
09/25/2017 through 10/02/2017
09/25/2017 – Today was a day of travel. I landed in Milwaukee after a very bumpy plane ride from Phoenix. Rented a car and made a quick stop in St. Francis to visit my friends John & Susan Nicholson to borrow an amplifier. Afterwards was a four hour drive across the state to Menomonie, WI where I had a brief chat with my first host Jennifer R Coyne of Arbor Place, Inc. Jennifer is an AODA counselor and the founder of the Music Heals program at Arbor Place Inc. I arrived late in the evening and after making plans for my performance the next day, I went to sleep.
Activity for this day - Miles by air: 1460 - Miles by car: 296
9/26/2017 – I spent the day getting ready for my show at Arbor Place, which is a non-profit AODA center with both inpatient and outpatient facilities. My contact Jennifer Coyne had just happened to reach out to me several months ago when a veteran who was in treatment wasn’t doing so well. I sent some CDs and a note for the veteran, reminding him he wasn’t alone on this journey. When I told Jen I would be in Wisconsin for this trip, she arranged to have me perform at Arbor Place and hosted me during my stay. After lunch at The Acoustic Café, I headed to Arbor Place. The center is really modern and very comfortable. They clearly understand that the setting of recovery is an important part of the solution. They had many musical instruments for the residents/clients via the Music Heals program, which made me smile. Music heals, that’s a fact! I have the privilege of witnessing its power every day.
The show went well with around 30 people in attendance. I met a veteran who had delivered mail during the same time I was in Iraq. We talked about how his service was often misunderstood by civilians. He drove from Kuwait to LSA Anaconda/Balad every day. Balad was affectionately known as “Mortaritaville.” I flew home via Balad and endured mortar attacks all night and VBIED attacks on the front gate while we were there. When he told people he delivered mail they didn’t understand. Never underestimate a veterans experience because of their job! I met another veteran who had done some time with my old unit 724th. He had also served with the 951st and knew many of my old friends from Charlie Co 724. We mourned the loss of our brother Sgt. Adams. The show went well with the exception of my phone dying. I drove to Neenah at night with just a map. Made it to the hotel around 1am and went to sleep.
Activity this Day - Miles by car: 212 - Civilians educated: 25 - Veterans inspired: 5 - CD’s given away: 40
09/27/2017 – I woke up early as I was now traveling without my cellphone. No GPS and no contact list. While this is how I did everything prior to 2006, it was still nerve racking. I made it to Winnebago Mental Health Institute where my contact Renee Henke had arranged some events for me. In the morning I presented “7 Things You Never Say to a Veteran” to around 25 staff in training at the facility. One of the veterans in attendance said that the presentation was the most accurate articulation of PTSD he had ever heard. Another agreed. These instances of confirmation from other combat veterans who have shared the experience confirm to me that I am not telling my story, so much as I am telling our story.
After lunch I walked across the facility to the prison. It is never fun entering a lock-down prison facility, even if it is mental health. It’s always a little hard for me with all the security guards on alert which tends to trigger my PTSD. I performed in the auditorium for incarcerated inmates and support staff. Originally it was just going to be the 5 veterans that were housed there, but they decided to open the show up to all the male inmates. I watched as they came in, looking hard and tough. I thought to myself, I’m going to make these guys laugh and smile. It wasn’t easy, but by around 30 minutes I had them all. Laughing about what got them there and solidifying their resolve to never end up their again. I met another veteran who’d served in units connected to my old unit.
I struggled with substance abuse from PTSD for years after I got home. I avoided being in their shoes by sheer luck alone. I recalled to them the many close calls I’ve had. I left a CD for each veteran with the veteran liaison so they could have it when they were released. Afterwards I headed to Oshkosh to try to get my phone repaired. No luck, it was completely dead. I studied my maps and headed for Wisconsin Dells. I checked in and ran to my room to try to make a phone call for an interview only to find it was canceled at the last minute. I relaxed and went to sleep.
Activity this Day - Miles by car: 103 - Civilians educated: 35 - Veterans inspired: 5 - CD’s given away: 45
09/28/2017 – Today was a free day. I rehearsed my presentation and visited my son Dylan who is attending college in Platteville. I only count miles that are part of my outreach so there is nothing to report for this day. My son has 3 tattoos which are new since I last saw him.
Activity this Day – Free Day
09/29/2017 – What a day. I started the day with another presentation of “7 Things You Never Say to a Veteran”, this time at the 21st Annual Crisis Intervention conference. There were around 75 crisis intervention professionals in attendance. The presentation went well and there were several veterans in the audience. Some of the professionals had seen me at other conferences. The day wasn’t even close to over so I jumped into my rental car and headed to Madison. I performed a show unrelated to Warrior Songs at the memory ward of the Oak Park Place retirement community. I followed that performance with another at the retirement community proper. I checked into a hotel after giving up on coordinating lodging due to the lack of having a phone.
I barely had time to change my strings before heading down to the Bos Meadery for a fun night of music. I knew doing four shows in one day would be exhausting, so I invited friends to join me on stage. My brother Noah Petts, open mic host Molly Mitchell, Feast of Crispian friend Raymond Hubbard, musician Matt Perrin, and old, old friend Bob Findlay joined me for some songs. It was good to see Colleen Bos and company again. Bos Meadery had been my musical home in Madison. My show was the first time I’d play in their new location in the same building. The tip jars went to Warrior Songs that night. It was good to see longtime Warrior Songs friends John & Cheryl Adams and board members Elizabeth Benn and Lisa Johnson. The night faded into a foggy dream with beers at the Wisconsinite with Raymond and Molly. Later that night, at 3am, the smoke detector at my hotel went off and they didn’t have any replacement 9 volt batteries. I packed up and walked to the nearest hotel. In the morning, I jockeyed for cabs with all the badger homecoming folks and remember that I always have a 9volt in my pre-amp on my guitar.
Activity this Day - Miles by car: 56 - Civilians educated: 70 - Veterans inspired: 10 - CD’s given away: 100
09/30/2017 – I woke up and drove to Neenah where I met with an old musical partner Sonja St. John. Sonja’s brother Jon was killed in Iraq in 2008. Our first track off of Warrior Songs Vol. 2 was about her losing her brother. “Star in the Dark”, had been featured on the Associated Press wire and ran in countless papers and newsfeeds Memorial Day weekend 2017. Sonja had arranged a house concert a couple houses down the road from hers. We rehearsed and caught up during the day. In the evening we performed my final show of the trip. Special thanks to Marijke van Roojen for hosting the event. It was a magical show. House concerts are very intimate with the audience being very close to the performers. Somewhere after “Hold On” and before “Star in The Dark”, tissues became a necessity. The generosity of the people in attendance pushed this trip from red to black. Afterwards we went to Cranky Pats for the pizza buffet.
Activity this Day - Miles by car: 99 - Civilians educated: 30 - CD’s given away: 30
10/01/2017 – Today was all about resting and attending a family wedding. Jeff and Monique, the daughter of my cousin Shannon James, celebrated their new life together at the Milwaukee Veterans Museum. It wasn’t a Warrior Songs day, but I will share that my cousin Shannon lost her son JJ Collins in Afghanistan October 2013. “The Things You’ll Never Be” is the song created from Shannon’s testimony with songwriter and combat veteran Joanne Powell. “Women at War: Warrior Songs Vol. 2” will release November of 2018. After enjoying the beautiful wedding and the wonderful Wisconsin weather I walked back to my hotel and fell asleep.
Activity this Day - Miles by car: 100
10/02/2017 - Today was a travel day. I checked out of the hotel and went to John & Susan’s to return the amps. John & Susan Nicholson of Frogwater have performed with me since 2011. You hear them on stringed and bowed instruments on “Trying to Find My Way Home” and “Love & Life”. It was here, passing some time and visiting with good friends that I heard that Tom Petty had died. We got out the instruments and jammed some of our favorite Petty songs. I got on the plane and wound up in a middle seat. Southwest when you don’t have a phone I guess. Sarah and Penny picked me up at the airport in Phoenix and we drove home. I fell into my bed and didn’t want to get back out.
Activity this Day - Miles by Air: 1460 – Miles by Car: 22
Miles by air: 2920
Miles by car: 888
Total miles: 3808
Civilians educated: 160
Veterans inspired: 20
CD’s disturbed: 215
WS shows performed: 6
Money spent: $1059.42
Money raised: $1051.00
Trip profit/loss: -$8.42
Special thanks to: 21st Annual Crisis Intervention Conference, Annalise Doyle, Arbor Place, Inc, The Bos Meadery, Faith Fanger, Jennifer R Coyne, John & Susan Nicholson, Julie Minor, Kari Schultz, Lisa Johnson, Mary M Vande Slunt, Music Heals, Nathaniel Carroll, Renee L Henke, Sarah & Penny Moon, Sonja St. John, Tamra J Oman, Tom Bollom, Wayne Sorenson, and Winnebego Mental Health Institute