What’s Up South Texas!: Military nonprofit helps soldiers, veterans turn stories into songs

Since the SA chapter of Soldier Songs and Voices began, they’ve helped over 50 military people

San Antonio – A local nonprofit organization is going above and beyond to help soldiers and veterans share their stories through music. That nonprofit is called Soldier Songs and Voices.

“It is a nonprofit founded in San Marcos several years ago,” said Michael Aurora, Air Force veteran, and one of the instructors and founders of the San Antonio Chapter. “We meet monthly to compose and write music. It is kind of a way of dealing with post war conflict and people that get out of the military and people that are still in the military and a way to voice their feelings through music.”

The group of men, made up of veterans and people with a heart for the military, helps others with songwriting and guitar lessons.

They said the process is therapeutic.

“We can go in, and we are already going to be trying to make music, but we can bring other people into the process,” said Cliff Mclean, another instructor. “When I am the one sitting by myself and writing, I can only get so far, but when we are in a room or collaborating, much other things are happening. We are not therapists. We are not counselors. I am playing music! And I am sitting with this group doing it. But when we are making these efforts going through, we all feel better after the time.”

Even when the pandemic struck, the group did not stop serving veterans, soldiers, and their families. They gather on Zoom sessions for safety measures.

Having Soldier Songs and Voices in San Antonio has helped men and women from all over the country.

“I never wrote up until that point of going to my first meeting,” said Chris Macallister, a Coast Guard veteran and participant with the organization. “I met them, and they welcomed everyone with open arms. I was looking there to bring other veterans to a place for social activity. I left my first meeting and by the time I got home, I was like, I am going back next month. It was just great to be a part of that and it’s an amazing tool. The music that comes out of it, not just from San Antonio, but from all over is just amazing."

David Marshall, an Army veteran, is also an instructor who was invested after his first meeting as well.

“I was like, ‘Oh, there are guys just like me!’ You only have to go to one meeting before you are hooked for life,” Marshall said. “Once I put it on paper, it frees up something in my brain that I can focus more on my family, on my wife, on my bills, on my job and if I can do that then I can help somebody else out."

Terry Tanner also served in the U.S. Army and has been very invested in his music career as well. He acts as a mentor and instructor in the group.

“I personally struggle with PTSD and I know songwriting can help people get out of their shell,” Tanner said. “No matter if you have served one year or 25, if you want to come out and share, we are here for you.”

For the first time since the pandemic struck, they plan to hold their first public concert showcasing all of the members and their respective bands at the Shade Tree Saloon. It is set to take place Saturday, November 21 from 6:00- 10:00 p.m.

They hope their organization can attract more military people and their families to continue converting their stories into songs, strengthening the brother and sisterhood.

“I just think every day goes better with music,” Aurora said. “If you are playing it. if you are writing it. if you are listening to it. The day goes better with it. If you can play it, it is exciting and if you can’t play it, come on down and we will teach you how to do it.”

“Get out of your own way and reach out for help,” Marshall added. “Learn your creativity. You have a song in there somewhere and you may just be a one hit wonder to yourself, but get it out there because what it is going to do is free you up to understand you got out of your own way.”

If you are interested in the Soldier Songs and Voices San Antonio Chapter, you can reach them through their Facebook page.

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About the Authors

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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