Yesterday, I volunteered with a handful of other veterans to be part of a local community collaboration sharing our stories interwoven with pieces of The Odyssey for Odyssey Home: A Veteran Performance. The Chandler Public Library held this event called Creating Peace From Conflict at the Chandler Center For the Arts in partnership with Arizona State University and Veterans For Peace. We also had Veteran Vision Project photos on site for attendance goers to see along with the individual narratives associated with each photograph. Once the footage is available, I’ll provide the link.
This collaboration starting off with group drumming and continued with our storytelling mixed with selections from The Odyssey. A few musical pieces were played by Guitars for Vets and another veteran, Ahmad Daniels was there as a representative for Veterans For Peace, also sharing his story. I know the event was scheduled to conclude with audience engagement, sort of a Q&A opportunity. I only stayed for the Odyssey performance as I had another engagement in the afternoon and with today being my daughter’s birthday, I wanted to make headway Saturday on some other issues I’ve currently slacked on.
The theme of the performance was homecoming and I am quite thankful the event started with the group drumming. While I did not choose to drum (I am embarrassed by my lack of rhythm) the sounds that filled the room reminded me of the wonderful performance given by citizens of Sao Vicente when I visited Cape Verde in high school. My peers, teachers, and I landed to a beautiful musical performance at the airport that reminds me still music is a thread shared globally; we may not always understand each other’s words and actions but music binds us in such a spiritual way.
I loved being reminded of a place that was my home for a short period of my life. Three weeks may not be an eternity but it’s sufficient time to be welcomed as a stranger, treated like a daughter, and remembered as a friend. I am forever grateful for that experience and everyone who welcomed us into their country, their homes, and let us savor their culture that we might never have experienced in our lives had our paths not crossed.
I think I was better able to embrace my role as a participant yesterday feeling like I was welcomed to this group much like how I was welcomed into Cape Verdean life.
My cohort of veterans included an ASU professor, my close friend and fellow ASU student, and a future student. For our individual tales, we provided the audience a better glimpse of ‘homecoming’ as experiences shaped by individual perception and built a bridge that homecoming is not exactly a single finite moment in time, but a process. I focused on the more immediate aspects of coming home to family tragedies and feeling like I did not fit into my life stateside.
I think a vital part of the construction of this storytelling was how well Robin Rio and her students shaped the music performance. I met Robin back in the fall of 2014 when I started my graduate degree at ASU. She is an Associate Professor with the School of Music and the Director of ASU’s Music Therapy Clinic. I interviewed her to gain a better understanding of ASU’s chapter of Guitars for Vets.
Looking back, I did not ask great interview questions, but I think we all have moments like that in our lives where our place as students does not necessarily provide us a sufficient lenses to see and understand the larger context of our community because we are also shortsighted about more immediate concerns like passing a class, juggling work, and testing our fit with fellow students. Seeing Guitars for Vets on campus though did inspire me to get out of my comfort zone about trying a musical instrument. I purchased a Taylor guitar awhile back and now, with my reduced commute, can commit more to my goal of learning the acoustic guitar. (Maybe I’ll be able to play a song before the year ends!)