Operation Song Gives Voice To Veterans

Operation Song Gives Voice To Veterans

Operation Song Gives Voice To Veterans

The feeling of pride had faded since Briana Sammons ‘18 returned from her service as Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, but as the notes sprang from the guitar and her words flowed from the mouth of a professional songwriter, the sense of pride came back to her in full force.

“I’m grateful for the Marine Corps and I wouldn't be where I am today without it.”—Brianna Sammons 

“I thought of my grandfather who was a Marine and was the reason why I joined, and how proud he would be of all of my accomplishments if he was still alive,” said Sammons, who graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in May.  She previously served in Japan, worked on a Joint Special Operations Task Force in the Philippines, then finished her last year of service in San Diego. 

Briana Sammons
Briana Sammons

Sammons is one of a dozen John Jay veterans who worked this fall with award-winning songwriters from Nashville and New York as part of Operation Song, an organization that pairs professional songwriters with veterans as a way to work through the post-active duty stress and acclimating to civilian life.  

Bob Regan founded Operation Song in 2012 after spending time on several Armed Forces Entertainment tours.

“I was taken aback by the age range as well as the demographic depth and breadth of the men and women who were serving and the toll that repeated deployments were taking on them,” said Regan. “Songwriters are kind of armchair therapists and I thought maybe if we sat down and helped them tell their stories we could convey their experiences in a different way and help them sort things out — give them a resolution they might not have had before.”

 

 

Briana Sammons
Briana Sammons at her graduation ceremony

“They came last semester and I thought they did an amazing job bringing our veterans stories to life and shedding light on some touchy subjects so I thought that this time around it would be a great opportunity for me to share mine,” said Sammons who graduated with a Criminal Justice degree and is now pursuing a career in law enforcement on the local or federal level. “They were very open and excited to hear my story. We had fun and just talked. The more we talked the words to the song just started flowing these guys are so incredibly talented.”

 John Jay is home to more than 500 veterans, the largest number among all CUNY campuses, and has a vibrant and active Office of Military and Veteran Services led by former Navy Chaplain Richard Pusateri.

“The results have been stunning,” said Pusateri. “In their lyrics, veterans shared a whole range of their feelings about their military service—some poignant, some humorous, many expressing pride in what they did, and many personal remembrances of the people, places and experiences of their military careers.”

“We see people start out reticent and within themselves and then, after a couple of hours with our songwriters, they open up and share things. It’s fun to see that light go on,” added Regan.

“In their lyrics, veterans shared a whole range of their feelings about their military service—some poignant, some humorous, many expressing pride in what they did.” Richard Pusateri 

“I knew each of Operation Song volunteers really well, yet when I heard their finished songs I learned things important and precious about their military experience that I never knew,” added Pusateri.  “They shared things in their songs that even their closest John Jay veteran friends hadn’t heard before.”

Sammons’ song, “I’ll Never Be The Same Again,” tells the story of her transformation from a girl to a woman struggling in a macho environment. The refrain, ‘Semper Fi Fidelis is tattooed on my skin’ shows her pride in the work she did as a Marine.

“What people see on media outlets of service members is not how it actually is. I got to travel all over the world and really have an impact on people who are living in terrible conditions and unsafe environments,” said Sammons. “I’m grateful for the Marine Corps and I wouldn't be where I am today without it.”

Learn about the Office of Military and Veteran Services.