Almost any family of a soldier can remember packing up and sending CDs of favorite artists and songs to dear ones stationed in the far corners of the globe. The prayer is always that the music, the magazines, and other remembrances of comfort, reach those in battle or those bravely keeping the peace, and that it brings momentary solace from the unrelenting stress of their situation.

Every music lover sees the art as medicine, knowing that a verse and a chord can combine to become the healing salve on a hurting soul.

Many soldiers, however, like retired Army Sgt. Joshua Geartz, return with wounds of endless pain, and the deepest wounds are the ones that are invisible, etched on the soul. They are the cuts that seem to bleed from within, with no binding to stop the flow.

Mary Gauthier has been spreading her beautiful artistry in words and music of many forms for more than two decades. The renowned Americana singer-songwriter now is based in Nashville, but she holds her own story of hidden hurts and loss in life.

There was an instant connection between Mary Gauthier and Joshua Geartz when he came to a retreat sponsored by SongwritingWithSoldiers. The initiative is more than a “connect with music” opportunity. Its purpose is to join professional musicians and songwriters with wounded veterans to create a lasting treasure — a song that will be forever theirs, forever part of them, and forever a conduit of healing to those who hear it.

The profound impact of SongwritingWithSoldiers is lasting, both in song and service, as conveyed in the March 21 feature on “CBS This Morning.”

Veteran star power

“I feel like I won some big VIP event or something,” blurts out Joshua Gertz, just before taking the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. He is about to perform his song “Still On the Ride” written with Mary Gauthier, and included among the tracks from her album, “Rifles & Rosary Beads,” which features collaborations created with other war veterans.

The process of yielding that single song meant probing through years of pain for Geartz, but cathartic doesn't even begin to describe the depth of the healing it brought. Joshua joined the Army in 1999, and in 2000, he deployed to Kosovo and to Iraq in 2003. The night before Geartz would go home, in September 2003, his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb.

He suffered both an injured spinal cord and a traumatic brain injury. Beyond his own trauma, he was tortured by the loss of his best friend, Private Thomas, who had become like a brother to him. Thomas died three years before Geartz’s injury, from injuries resulting from a vehicle accident.

The date was November 7, and that date became the darkest point for Joshua Geartz. The Sergeant was doubly haunted by the memory that he had asked to be dropped off from the same vehicle just moments before his best friend’s accident.

Sgt. Geartz did more than contemplate suicide. In 2014, he attempted it and fortunately, he failed. Still, the military police officer could not shake his feelings of emptiness or the sense of “all the air being sucked out of the room,” when he entered. He had November 7 in mind for another suicide attempt, until his wife, Lisa, had a plan for music to intervene.

Lisa enrolled her husband in a SongwritersWithSoldiers retreat, and in an instant, Joshua had a lifetime friend and creative partner.

From fireball to finding healing

Mary Gauthier was one of the featured artists for this particular camp, and from the moment she saw Sgt. Geartz and his wife entering the doors, she felt the “fireball” inside of him. “I have to write with this guy,” she knew within herself. Drawn by Joshua’s “suffering,” she realized from her own life experience that if they could reach that core of pain and excise it, then “the infection” could be tossed out to others in the group, “to give them courage.”

Mary Gauthier understands the process of that ethereal, yet very real, exchange.

She was born to a mother she never knew in New Orleans, Louisiana, and left in a women and children's asylum. She was adopted at age one, but never felt any sense of family or belonging, often feeling that she was only there to cook and do labor. She ran away at 15 and self-medicated her rejection and pain with drugs and alcohol.

Still, Mary managed to make a name and a living for herself. She managed her Cajun restaurant, Dixie's Kitchen, for 11 years after graduating from Cambridge culinary school. Since a drunk-driving arrest in 1990, Gauthier has been sober, and poured herself and her journey into music through 11 albums, including 2005’s acclaimed “Mercy Now.” Mary wrote her first song at 35, and now her songs are part of the curriculum at noted universities.

Joshua Geartz isn't really joking when he says, “I didn't know it was so easy” to his collaborator, referring to how their song blossomed after his first words to her.

The retreats of SongwritingWithSoldiers are structured as equal parts group session, writing workshops, and jam sessions. Darden Smith and Mary Judd founded SongwritingWithSoldiers five years ago, specifically with the intent that songs would never be “for” or “about” soldiers, but instead, created with them. “The song is gigantic,” insists Mary Judd, who reiterates “they have it forever.”

When Mary Gauthier asked Joshua to share his experience, his first words were, “Who the hell knows…”

That kernel of raw truth turned into the first words of “Still On the Ride,” a song that now brings a memory of beautiful, steadfast friendship instead of a tragic commemoration.

Joshua Geartz delivers a harmonica bridge to the ballad that no heart can forget.

The friendship between the songwriters, like their song, will never fade with time.

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