Exclusive — CreatiVets Co-Founder on Healing Veterans with Music: We Remap and Repurpose ‘Old Negative Memories as Positive’ Through Songwriting

Creativets Lead Photo
Courtesy of CreatiVets

Richard Casper, co-founder of CreatiVets and a retired Marine Corps veteran, told Breitbart News on Monday how his organization helps wounded servicemembers heal the wounds of war through art and music.

Casper suffered a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder following injuries he sustained during his military service in Iraq. “[I] suffered four separate lasts by IEDs,” he recalled on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily with host Alex Marlow. “[They] left me with a left traumatic, brain injury, and my buddy was shot killed beside me.”

CreatiVets used art and music as therapy for wounded and distressed veterans, Casper stated. He highlighted the rate of suicides among veterans and military servicepersons — an average of 20 every day — as a problem his organization addresses. He explained how CreatiVets funds musical and artistic endeavors for its military beneficiaries.

“Creativets is a nonprofit that’s helping empower wounded veterans heal through arts and music,” Casper said. “But we do it in a pretty cool way because we’re trying to reach those 20 suicides a day in the veteran military space and the 14 that don’t actually seek help.”

CreatiVets covers the cost of travel and accommodation for veterans to allow them to collaborate with musical stars, Casper explained.

“When we build our programs, we do it to where you can’t really turn them down,” he said.”We’ll fly veterans from anywhere in the country to Nashville, Tennessee, to right backstage at the Grand Ol Opry with a number one songwriter to write about their story for the first time, and they’re paired with another veteran to help them tell that story. We pay for their flights and their food, and their housing and everything, and we also do that at some of the best art schools, like the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, the University of Southern California, and Belmont [University] here in Nashville.”

CreatiVets Co-founder Richard Casper with songwriters Johnny Bulford (“Woman like you” by Lee Brice and “Lonely Eyes” by Chris Young) and Heidi Ray after writing the song “Stories” with a veteran in Nashville, TN. (Photo courtesy of CreatiVets)

He recalled a success story through which music and songwriting allowed a wounded veteran to reconnect with his wife by using the medium of song to share painful experiences he previously withheld from her.

“We have a ton of success stories,” he said. “One of the coolest ones was a veteran, and when he reached out, I actually thought it was him this whole time. It happened to be his wife, because his anxieties and the pressure were so bad, he couldn’t handle his own emails, his own phone calls. When I was texting him, I was actually texting his wife. I didn’t know until he showed up in Nashville. They said they wanted to drive because they couldn’t fly.”

He continued, “I didn’t know how bad the problem was, and then when he got there, he asked if his wife could join him in the room and I said, ‘No. … This is where we draw the line, just because I want you to be open and free with me. I told you what I went through. You told me what you went through. I’m gonna be your battle buddy. We’re gonna go in there. We’re gonna tell your story and anything you can’t tell. I’ll help you tell that story.'”

Agonizing memories can be positively repurposed through the creation of music, Casper explained. He recalled the process of one of his “success stories.”

He remembered, “We go in this room and we start telling his story about the battle of Nasiriyah. It was just incredible — the things that he had to endure and come home with — and we wrote a song called Nasiriyah, and he went home after that an absolutely changed man. It’s crazy to think that just a three- or four-hour writing session could do that much, but we’re not just writing the song. We’re legitimately remapping the way that they think about their experiences, and we’re repurposing these old negative memories as positive, because he says stuff like, ‘I can’t tell my wife this, but I had to do X in Iraq,’ and then when we write a song about it, the first person he sings the song to is his wife, because now he has a song he’s written that he’s so excited about.”

“So now he travels; he actually spoke at our five-year gala, like going from not be able to handle anything to speaking front of 200 people at our five-year anniversary. And now he goes on trips all the time with his family and you can’t stop him,” he added.

Casper explained how music is a medium to memorialize a fallen comrade and share his story without crying.

“I thought, ‘Hey, I’m a six-foot-five combat Marine, a Purple Heart recipient, and I didn’t want to cry in front of people. But every time I try to tell the story of my gunner who was shot and killed — Luke Yepsen — I would cry. And I said, ‘If only I had a song, I could just give it to people and walk away.’ So now I’m not crying and his life gets to live on through that.”

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