Reaching out to Veterans; reaching out to families

Combat veteran’s music is stepping stone and story of healing

Zeke Vanderpool of Andersonville has done his time with 20th Special Forces Special Operations.

Retiring in 2013, Vanderpool said he knew there was something — he wasn’t sure what — he needed to do.

“I used to sit around outside, on the porch, play a little guitar, just fooling around really,” he said.

“And I realized I was doing that, sitting around playing music, when I needed to regroup,” he said.

He noticed other veterans were doing it as well.

He calls it telling stories of their lives and their happenings — and that’s what his music is really, it’s telling stories.

“It’s the power of the story, the power of the music,” Vanderpool said.

He soon found that veterans were responding to the music. They began to open up, to share.

Vanderpool said it’s not a miracle. It’s just a way one veteran can relate to another. Call it an ice breaker, if you will, but it works.

“I never thought my music could have that affect,” he said. “But it’s let me know that I’m doing something right.”

Working through Angel Wings, Vanderpool and other military veteran song writer/musicians have reached out to who knows how many veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“We have to treat it as an injury and not a disorder,” Vanderpool said. “It’s important to reach out and connect with these veterans and to the veterans’ families. The collateral damage to the families is huge.”

The therapy — the story telling, as it were, from one veteran to another, works.

Vanderpool has witnessed it, he’s been part of it, and Angel Wings is tremendous resource for veterans and first responders to help get through this injury.

“We collaborate with other non-profits, we’re creating a venue where they (veterans and first responders) can connect,” he said. “We want to reach out to these men and women, to their families.”

Vanderpool is a full-time father. He is a veteran. He is a musician.

And he has become a healer.

“We reach out to one veteran at a time,” he said. “We reach out to one family at a time.”

That means raising funds, training counselors, getting people involved. Vanderpool says the success rate thus far is “close to 100-percent.”

And there are stories and encounters that have touched him, made him see the power of what he is doing.

“I am in awe of Vietnam Veterans,” he said. “They amaze me. When I work with one I am humbled.”

And it all started with some down time, a guitar, and a story.

“This is my cornerstone,” Vanderpool said. “It’s been quite a journey and I can’t think of anything else I’d be doing.”