Powerful untold stories of service from veterans in our own community will be shared in a unique way. They’re being told through song, poetry, and storytelling in Santa Fe.
“There’s the cost in combat. Then there’s the cost when you come home,” said veteran Billie Russell.
The local heroes sharing them are stepping out of their comfort zone to give a glimpse of their past, which still sometimes haunts their present.
“Nobody wants to hear about it because it’s ugly,” said Russell.
Their stories will be shared with the community, all thanks to a concert centered around celebrating veterans in New Mexico, organized by a group called “The Academy for the Love of Learning.”
“That is the vision of the program…to take stories that aren’t often really heard and honored, and wisdom of our elders and also veterans who have been into places, places for us who haven’t been in service have never been,” said Acushla Bastible, Director of Lifesongs.
“Homecoming: Songs and Stories of Service” will showcase the experiences of six veterans.
Each song or story was written in collaboration with Lifesongs artists, like Nathan Dunton, who worked with 93-year-old Bernie Armstrong.
Armstrong served in three wars.
“He saw a lot of really difficult things and our song is really about how in the ways he was able to stay positive in these experiences,” said Dunton.
For veterans like Armstrong and retired Army medic, Russell, this was an extremely cathartic experience. They say it helped them repair the emotional wounds left by war.
“Now all these years later it’s healing. Finally, finally. It’s good to be a part of it. It helps me heal,” said Russell.
Russell hopes that by sharing her story she’ll inspire other veterans to share theirs, so they, too, can feel that little bit of relief.
“I’m hoping me coming forward, considering my rank because it means something to them, will help these medics cleanse through exposure,” said Russell.
Since 2007, Lifesongs’ concerts have given New Mexicans an opportunity to see transformative life stories and to experience creative exchanges between people of different ages, genders and races.
However, this is the first year the concert will focus solely on music and stories written with veterans.
The “Homecoming: Songs and Stories of Service” concert is Friday night at 7 p.m. at the New Mexico School for the Deaf’s James A. Little Theater in Santa Fe.