Last Thing We Ever Do: Musicians express the Vietnam War experience of Milwaukee veterans in new album
Local musicians and the stories of hometown Vietnam veterans are featured in a new album being released on August 8 at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom.
“The Last Thing We Ever Do” CD was produced by Warrior Songs, a Wisconsin non-profit helping veterans heal from the trauma of war through the creative arts.
The album features 14 songs created by professional songwriters from the firsthand testimonials of Vietnam era veterans, brought to life by professional studio musicians. Copies of the CDs are made available to veterans and veteran non-profits free of charge.
The songs on the album cover topics including the military draft, combat, survivor guilt, coping with returning to civilian life, and moral injury.
Nineteen Vietnam era veterans gave testimonials, transformed into song by 21 songwriters and recorded by 81 studio musicians in 14 different studios across five states in two countries – USA and Vietnam. A total of 109 artists, including 17 Vietnamese nationals, joined forces to complete the project. The release party and concert at Turner Hall Ballroom includes a lineup with 10 of the 14 acts that wrote and recorded songs for the CD.
“The album is about the trauma of service, but also about reconciliation,” said Jason Moon, founder of Warrior Songs
Jason Moon joined Chuck Theusch’s Vietnam-based Children’s Library International on their 20-year anniversary trip to create “Seeds of Peace,” song about the importance of reconciliation work in healing moral injury. The recording is Warrior Songs first multinational effort.
Renowned conductor of The United Saigon Orchestra, Son Mach, recorded in Saigon and Da Nang, and Vietnamese school children sang the lead vocals.
Moon, executive producer of the album, is an Iraq combat veteran and award-winning singer-songwriter. He experienced severe PTSD, but overcame it through his music after a long struggle, although still plagued by it at times. He founded Warrior Songs in 2011 as a way to help other veterans heal through music and other creative arts, and devotes his life to it.
Warrior Songs is an all-volunteer non-profit organization, and all donations and proceeds go to helping heal veterans’ trauma through creative arts retreats and Story To Song, which converts their stories into songs.
The album is the third in a series of releases by Warrior Songs to tell the stories of veterans and help them heal by sharing their experiences.
The previous album, “Women At War,” was named album of the year by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry. The veterans, songwriters, musicians and songs on “The Last Thing We Ever Do” include:
Special Forces Vietnam veteran vocalist Larry Reed and instrumentalists John and Susan Nicholson of Frogwater teamed up with Vietnam veteran Charlie Walton – all from Milwaukee, who had a fellow soldier die in his arms, to create a song about letting go of survivor’s guilt, “Let It Go.”
“Mark’s Song,” inspired by Milwaukee veteran Mark Foreman, a Navy corpsman with the Marines who spent five days lying severely wounded on a battlefield, was written and recorded by Katie and Jesse Frewerd, who perform as Canary Canyon.
“Face Down,” a song about military sexual trauma, was recorded by the Milwaukee band The Mambo Surfers, featuring Gervis Myles, is based on the story of an anonymous male veteran rape victim.
“Disquieted Mind” by Milwaukee musician Jeff Mitchell tells the story of veteran Steve Gunn, who healed in part through the work of Dr. Ed Tick and Soldier’s Heart. The song is a touching commentary on the need for healing from moral injury.
“Never Give Up,” written by Karen Lopez in collaboration with Milwaukee veteran Richard “Breezy” Brzeski, an instructor with Vets Journey Home, is a song of encouragement to those enduring PTSD. It is performed by performed by Tucson musician Isaac Muir.
Actor/writer/producer/musician Elvis Thao, a former Milwaukeean and a cast member of Clint Eastwood’s “Grand Torino” film, created the song “Bloody Mekong,” about the experience of Hmong veteran Chia Cher Vue, recorded by Elvis Thao and The Creatives.