Veterans unite to record fundraiser CDWritten by Sanya Ali | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Music can be a powerful motivator for veterans. A guitar is one of the few nonessential items allowed in a war zone, so occasional evening gatherings spent listening to original songs are considered a treasure to many soldiers stationed across the globe.
The strength gained from music is what led to the creation of Operation Encore by U.S. Air Force veterans Rob Raymond, Chris Kurek and Erik Brine. Brine said they had many reasons for founding the organization, but the main goal was to showcase veteran talent.
“We were trying to provide a venue and opportunity for veteran singers and songwriters who can make original music to collaborate and share their experiences and their stories with the larger veteran population and the public,” Brine said.
Brine, a presidential management fellow at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C., said the overwhelming support from the veteran community inspired them to donate a portion of their future proceeds to other organizations.
“We know there are a lot of veterans organizations out there, over 52,000 now,” Brine said. “A lot of them are great, some of them are not so great. We want to highlight the ones we think are especially good. That’s just one small way we think we can give back.”
The funds will be divided amongst organizations like the Dog Tag Bakery, the American Legion and Student Veterans of America.
Toledoan Matt Stake, member of the Ohio Air National Guard, performs two original tracks on the CD. Stakes said he hopes the CD shows the population how musically gifted his fellow veterans are.
“You’re usually pretty limited when you go to some of these places,” Stake said. “One of the things you can take is an acoustic guitar. The biggest thing is we wanted to share great music for the world and get recognition for some of the talented, great folks that are out there.”
Stake and 10 other musicians recently gathered at a house in Phoenix to work on Operation Encore with Brine, Kurek and Raymond.
“Between music sessions and doing interviews for a documentary, we would do live shows every night,” Stake said. “No one wanted to leave because you had 13 people sitting in this living room with mandolins and acoustic guitars and acoustic bass guitars. It was amazing.”
Stake described a similar scene he often encountered while deployed in the Middle East: officers in their downtime gathered in a common space or around water pallets, pulling out their guitars and singing from their hearts.
Brine said music was a powerful motivator for him.
“Music played a big part in my life and served a big role for me, whether I was getting myself psyched up to fly into a combat zone or when I was just deployed,” Brine said. “Any time you’re deployed, time stands still. You get lonely. Music always helped me feel better, helped me feel closer to home and felt like I was there for a reason.”
Stake said he finds songwriting inspiration when he is away from his wife.
“When I write it’s about missing my wife or something like that,” Stake said. “One of the songs was written when I went down to New Orleans, when I was down on Bourbon Street. The signature drink was called ‘hand grenade.’ I was sitting down there, the sun was shining, I was looking at Lake Pontchartrain and I was thinking, ‘This is awesome.’ The only thing missing was my wife.”
Stake said a running joke between him and his wife is that, because he is an F-16 maintenance officer and a pilot for small six-wing aircrafts, he would probably get lost if he flew the larger planes on his own. He reflects this sort of experience within his songs.
Stake said each track on the CD touched him, but his two favorites were Raymond’s “Slipping Bonds” and Stephen Covell’s “Sand Hills to Sandals.” Covell’s piece brought tears to Stake’s eyes, and for that reason, Stake said he will not listen to Covell’s other track until he is emotionally prepared.
The CD will be released sometime in the fall. More information is available on the Operation Encore website, operationencoremusic.com. To donate to the Kickstarter campaign, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/operationencore/operation-encore-music-by-military-veterans before June 5.
Tags: Air National Guard, American Legion and Student Veterans of America, CD, Chris Kurek, Dog Tag Bakery, Erik Brine, F-16, Matt Stake, Middle East, Music, New Orleans, Operation Encore, Rob Raymond, songs, U.S. Air Force, veterans