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A day of healing: Helping veterans and their loved ones through music therapy

Anthony Pearson plays the bass during one of the songwriting sessions in a Rock to Recovery program. Submitted photo.

By Dominik Stallings

Anthony Pearson, Air Force veteran and co-owner of the Tuscola Blend House, went on a trip to Washington D.C., to help with a program he is deeply familiar with — the Wounded Warrior program, more specifically, the Rock to Recovery program.

Pearson spent several days in D.C. teaching non-musician veterans how to play music. Pearson said that he helped the participants write songs and play the guitar as well.

He usually goes to these events several times a year. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down many of those events in recent years.

According to their website, the Rock to Recovery program serves veterans, youth and people working to overcome addictions and other mental health issues. They in VA hospitals, addiction treatment centers and mental health facilities. In their mission statement, it reads, “anywhere there is a need for the healing power of music.”

Rock to Recovery was founded Dec. 12, 2012, by Wesley Geer, professional musician for 20 years and founding member of Jive Records. After touring for eight years he went into rehab and played with the world-famous band, “Korn” after being sober for three years.

“But it was when I was in treatment that I realized how much music could help [me] get through those tough emotions that run so rampant, especially in the early days,” said Geer in his website biography.

The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program provides non-medical care and support to wounded airmen and their caregivers and families. The program aims to give recovering service members a simplified transition back to duty or into civilian life.

At the event in D.C. the veterans weren’t the only people who were involved in the music therapy session.

“Writing with caregivers was eye-opening,” said Pearson. “We don’t get to hear their point of view.”

Pearson joined the Air Force in December 2009, and retired in April 2017. He first participated in the Wounded Warrior program in November 2016.

“Initially, for me me, what got me interested was adaptive sports. I started my learning through wheelchair basketball,” said Pearson.

He made the Air Force team for the Warrior Games that same year and heard about the other programs offered by the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, like Rock to Recovery.

“Honestly, when I was medically retired from the Air Force, the Wounded Warriors Program was a huge part of my transition, so it was a priority for me to give back to that program,” said Pearson.

The Warrior Games are an annual event put on by the Department of Defense. Hundreds of athletes, including international allied nations, compete in adaptive sporting events like wheelchair basketball, cycling and others. According to the Warrior Games website, the event serves as a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors.

Pearson participated in the games in 2017 and 2018 for wheelchair basketball. He also met his wife and co-owner of Tuscola Blend House, Savara, during the 2018 games in Colorado.

Right after Pearson returned to Tuscola from his trip to D.C. he was invited to play for the 10-year-anniversary of the Rock to Recovery program in Los Angeles.

“I’m definitely excited. At this point, I work with some of the facilitators. a lot of them have played in a lot of popular bands. It’s a really cool opportunity to play with some high-caliber musicians,” said Pearson.

He will perform “Bobby’s song” which is dedicated to First Sergeant Bobby Connelly, who worked with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. Connelly passed away shortly before an event. Pearson said that there’s a tradition in the Air Force Program program to perform his song.

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