Actually, the title might be better served reading, "How I became INSPIRED to help our U.S. Veterans and troops, but I'll stay with the theme of referencing my songs for now.
In April of 2008 I was asked to be the master of ceremonies for a fundraiser that was to benefit a local NJ Veterans support group called VETWORK. I immediately accepted and began a research mission to end all research missions. I needed to know not just the numbers of Veterans needing assistance, but the reasoning behind this growing number.
Why was it that so many men and women that serve this country of ours come back to face so many hardships?
The information that I discovered through a month or so of research was not only startling to me, but filled me with an INSPIRATION like I've never felt before. I simply could not believe that these individuals who fight to protect our freedom cannot (for a wide array of reasons) come back to a life we would call 'normal'. I especially could not understand what happened to the individuals who DID have 'normal life' prior to their service and then face desperation upon their return.
What happens after they return?
The most devastating fact I uncovered was that 1 OUT OF EVERY 3 PEOPLE SLEEPING ON OUR NATIONS SIDEWALKS HAS WORN A UNIFORM TO PROTECT THIS COUNTRY*. I apologize for the capital letters here but this fact needs to be seen, heard and spoken about. I did not serve in the armed forces and I cannot relate to their experiences, but what I do have is the utmost respect for the men and women that have. I find it unimaginable that these people lay their lives on the line for us and cannot get support when they come back to this country. WHY?
So back to my story. When I spoke to the people in attendance at that fundraiser I noticed I was speaking with INTENT. I spoke loudly and clearly and I made it a point to make sure these guests were listening, and they did. We raised a good amount of money that night for VETWORK but I had to ask myself after the fact,
'Why was I so determined to drive home this point?'
I did not have an answer then, and I still don't know the answer today. All I know is that it tugs on my heart and soul when I hear and read hardship stories about our Veterans. This goes beyond patriotism to me, it's more of a humanistic value that I'm relating to.
IT JUST ISN'T RIGHT.
So, that was the foundation of how I became an activist for our U.S. Veterans. Then on Veterans Day in 2008 as I had the day off and as I was reflecting about our veterans I heard a melody in my head. This immediately turned into a chorus for my song and the verses and lyrics all just spilled out from my heart. All that was left was a title and theme for this new creation of mine. One of the first things that VETWORK President Joe Arata said to me when I first met him was that when I see a Veteran, 'reach out and shake their hand, and say THANK YOU'. Well, there it was, I had my title: "SAY THANK YOU TO A VETERAN". I was so excited, I called Joe immediately to tell him the news and he was just as excited.
Throughout 2009 and I believe for quite some time to come, 'Say Thank You to a Veteran' has been used as the basis for additional fundraisers. We have raised thousands of dollars for our Veterans and I remain committed to serving in the only way I know how, through my heart and through my music. I am currently a member of the U.S Army Freedom Team and 'Say Thank You to a Veteran' has made its way to Washington DC where I have received commendations from U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and the General Secretary of the U.S. Army. Outside of my own cd, 'Say Thank You to a Veteran' is also found on many military compilation cds, is featured on military websites and thanks to good friend Gary Baumgarten of PALTALK.com has been heard around the world and INSPIRED many individuals in foreign countries too.
If you would like to hear it, watch videos and find out more about how I've been INSPIRED to help our Veterans, please visit www.myspace.com/dannyrongo
Thank you and please support our Veterans and our Troops,
* (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans)