Operation Song uses music to help veterans heal
A group of songwriters are helping veterans share their stories through music.
They’re part of a nonprofit called Operation Song which pairs hit makers with heroes.
The veterans meet weekly and say they find the songwriting process therapeutic.
Fred McDade makes the trip from Dalton to Chattanooga every Wednesday to participate in the writing session.
McDade, 80, has quite a story to tell.
The Dalton native was a major league baseball player but his time on the baseball diamond was short-lived.
When he was 20 he received a draft letter from the United States Army that would change the direction of his life forever.
McDade served in the Vietnam War for four months before he came under attack.
“I got hit with a rocket propelled grenade that left me totally blind and I lost my right foot. I went into a deep coma for 33 days,” McDade told Channel 3.
When he finally came out of the coma his world went dark.
“I just withdrew from reality. I wouldn’t even answer to my name for a couple of weeks. I asked God to just take my life but then he visited me one day and said ‘I have work for you to do,’ and I started living again,” said McDade.
McDade said he didn’t think he was smart enough to go to college when he had his eyesight so he wasn’t confident he could since becoming totally blind.
With encouragement from his family, he earned an associate’s degree from Dalton State. McDade enjoyed school so much that he continued his education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
He says he was the first blind man to graduate from the university and the first African American to earn a master’s degree from UTC.
McDade spent nearly two decades as a special counselor for at-risk students at Dalton High School.
Today, he helps other veterans through Operation Song.
“My thing to other veterans is share your life, talk about it, don’t hold it inside because it doesn’t do anything but cripple you,” McDade told Channel 3.
The veterans in the writing sessions have wounds you can’t see.
Many of them have dealt with PTSD, alcoholism and some have even attempted suicide.
Each person in the room knows exactly what the others are going through and tears flow freely.
They provide support, friendship and encouragement for one another.
The veterans say they’ve shared personal information in the sessions that they’ve never shared with anyone.
As for McDade, “I believe now that I am pleased and happy that all of this happened to me because it made me a better person to help others. I wasn’t selfish when I could see but I was all about me and now I’m all about helping others,” he told Channel 3.
The songwriters have co-written more than 700 songs while helping veterans heal.