From the military to music. 

Many servicemen and women have found healing after putting down their rifles and picking up a pen to compose songs that help process the often horrific war experiences.

Many veterans suffer from debilitating injuries, harrowing and recurring nightmares, and lingering emotional turbulence long after serving on the front lines in defense of America. Jaye Budd, executive director of Alchemy Sky, serves the veterans who protected our country by helping them to heal through the powerful platform of music at The Alchemy Sky Foundation. 

Alchemy Sky’s “Veterans Music Project” was founded in 2018 to provide another portal and a therapeutic outlet through music to quell the mayhem in their minds. It has also provided a safe space as veterans find solace and lasting camaraderie through the process of writing music and creating original songs with other former service members.

The Veterans Music Project is a platform for veterans to tell their story, to process their experiences and celebrate the stories and the sacrifices of veterans according to Budd.

Budd found that many veterans are impassioned music fans who quickly learn they are able to articulate their trauma, pain and depression in ways they weren’t able to before. During the sessions, some veterans channel their feelings through rap rhymes while others sing about their pain. 

Part of the empowerment and healing comes through ownership of their material as the vets compose their own lyrics and contribute to the music creation.

Budd invites six to eight veterans to meet weekly in 14-week sessions three to four times per year. They are often referred to him by The Wounded Warrior Project, another nonprofit that provides a multiplicity of veterans assistance. Budd and his team walk the vets through songwriting and composing original music with the aid of area producers, session players, and songwriters, some of whom donate their time, studios and resources.

Towards the end, Budd has the veterans meet at an area studio to record the songs that they helped create. The goal is to create at least two songs and videos at the conclusion of the 14 weeks.

“We give them kind of a crash course on song arrangement and song structure,” Budd said of the classes. “But we don’t necessarily tell them what to write about. That’s kind of up to them.” Budd is often amazed at how deep the veterans go to excavate long-buried feelings of inner tumult borne from the front lines on foreign soil.

“So I’ve always kind of been blown away by what they choose to write about, because it’s usually very vulnerable and very powerful,” Budd says. “So I think that that’s a good sign in terms of us being able to fill a need for our military servicemen and women here in Atlanta.”

To be able to provide veterans with another outlet to undergo the therapeutic process is very gratifying to Budd.

“When we do interviews with the veterans, we will hear terms like ‘this was very therapeutic,’ or ‘I really wanted to figure out a fun way to express myself and I’ve always loved music,’” Budd said. “And this has been a great opportunity for us, for me, to do so. We do think, you know, it helps them kind of tie some experiences together and processes and feelings. It’s also a lot of fun.”

And because the process is fun and Alchemy Sky enables veterans to tap into a hobby they love, the experience often becomes emotionally and spiritually transformative. 

“It is magic to me,” one war veteran testified.

“They actually gave me the confidence I didn’t know I had,” Teak Safiya Wilson, an Army veteran, said in the ‘Veterans Music Project’ video. 

Her fellow servicewoman, Kimia Floury, who served in the Marine Corps, added that “writing about it helps get these feelings out, the emotions out. And then when you have other people listening to it, and they feel the same way, you feel vindicated for feeling the way you feel.”

Sometimes, veterans have difficulty articulating what they’re feeling and Alchemy Sky demonstrates that music could be one of the keys to open the door to the healing process.

“And what we have found is that sometimes, I think, can be easier for someone to write a lyric to come up with an idea for a song or a hook,” Budd said. “It’s a kind of a creative way to do that without asking them kind of point-blank or kind of straight away, ‘like, how does (reliving the war) make you feel?’ Or ‘tell me what you’re feeling right now.’ So I think the song acts as kind of a doorway. It’s an opportunity for them to be able to express themselves without being in that situation where someone’s asking them directly to express themselves.”

Subsequently, the Veterans Music Project serves as another conduit for self-expression on a powerful platform. It also enables them to establish lasting friendships, and also to fulfill some veterans’ dreams of becoming recorded rappers, singers and songwriters that they’ll cherish for a lifetime

Log onto YouTube to listen to some of the Veterans Music Project’s original songs such as “Don’t Be Silent” and “Welcome Back.” More information on the Alchemy Sky Foundation can be found at www.alchemysky.org, @alchemyskyfoundation on Instagram and Facebook, and @alchemy_sky on Twitter.

Military Veterans singing. (Photo Credit: The Alchemy Sky Foundation)