Healing through music

Country singer Mary Gauthier helps wounded veterans cope

By Gail Wood on March 29, 2018

At last, they're home, having served their time in the military after fighting abroad.
But their war isn't over.

Mary Gauthier, a nationally renowned country music singer, listens to their stories, to their troubles dealing with everyday life, and to their problems coping.

Then, she puts it to song.

Gauthier shares these soldiers' stories in her new album, Rifles & Rosary Beads, a collection of 11 soldiers' stories co-written with and for wounded veterans.  

"We've found something powerful here that brings hope to people who are hurting," Gauthier said. "So they are truly seen and know they are not alone."  

Gauthier's website, marygauthier.com, opens with soft piano music and a sign that slowly moves across the screen. It reads "I am fighting for my country's freedom, but I don't feel free."

The Invictus Foundation applauds Gauthier's work and endorses her efforts to help veterans and their families find inner peace after serving in war assignments to the Middle East. They hope that families can heal through the power of music.

Peter Whalen, founder and CEO of the Invictus Foundation, gives Gauthier a double thumbs up.

"We are excited about our collaboration with Mary and her work with the Songwriting for Soldiers program, which we wholeheartedly support," he said. "We admire the way Mary has fused philanthropy and her brilliant singer and songwriting talents."

For Gauthier, listening to vets tell their stories and then putting it to music has become a calling. It's her way of helping and simply saying "thank you."

"My job as a songwriter is to find that thing a soul needs to say," she said.

Gauthier has held retreats and invited vets to come and share their stories. Each retreat draws about a dozen soldiers and four songwriters. During the two-day event, participants put together three songs.

"We have to stay focused, listen carefully, and make sure every veteran gets their own song. And we always do," Gauthier said. "None of the veterans are artists. They don't write songs. They don't know that songs can be used to move trauma."

Gauthier said writing songs and singing songs has saved her from her own life problems.

"It's what I think the best songs do," she said. "(They) help articulate the ineffable, make the invisible visible, (and create) resonance so that people don't feel alone."

Gauthier has seen the positive impact of the songs happen quickly -- and unexpectedly. She's seen a release in tension in the troubled veterans who have shared their stories. And, she said, a song may be the answer to releasing their troubles.

"Because the results are so dramatic, this could work for other traumas," Gauthier said. "Trauma is the epidemic. You say opioid. I say trauma epidemic. As an addict, I know addiction is self-medication because of suffering, and beneath that pain is always trauma."

After seeing the impact of music, Gauthier is convinced that listening to a soldier's problems and putting it to music is healing. And others are seeing it, too.

"The importance of this effort cannot be overstated," states a review of Gauthier's recent album in the Country Standard Time. Her latest album captures with "aching clarity the effect of war on those that fight them and those that await their return," added the Invictus Foundation, which named Gauthier as their "Artist in Residence" and promotes her music.

For more information about Gauthier, visit marygauthier.com.