A local Marine Corps veteran recently got the call he’s been waiting for.
Earlier this year, retired Lance Cpl. Aaron King traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend the 15th anniversary of the Battle of Nasiriyah — an intense, weeklong battle in Nisiriyah, Iraq, that started March 23, 2003 and resulted in numerous casualties.
A longtime musician, King was attentive to the music at the anniversary event and was particularly moved by one song in particular.
“I was very moved by the song they had written for the Garden of Eden Marines, rightly titled ‘Nasiriyah,’ ” King recently wrote in an email.
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King was so moved that he became determined to write a song as well and sent a completed application to Richard Casper, executive director of CreatiVets, a nonprofit program designed to help military veterans express themselves and heal through the creative arts. Fate was on his side and he was chosen by CreatiVets to go to Nashville to record his song.
“I was contacted in late June about going to Nashville July 10th through the 12th,” King said, “and it definitely was a life-changing experience.”
King’s song is called “Never Give Up,” and although it is inspired by his experience at the 15th anniversary of the battle of Nasiriyah, it is a bit more universal, and is intended for all audiences.
“The song is a battle cry for anyone going through dark times and struggling,” King said. “The main premise of the song is that I am giving advice to my twin daughters for later in life. It is a song that if someone is contemplating suicide or are facing demons, they can listen to this song and regain the hope that things will indeed get better.”
Part of the charm of being awarded the opportunity to go to Nashville to write a song includes doing so with other musicians who are based out of Nashville, in none other than the Grand Ole Opry. King was able to write the song in collaboration with a few professional songwriters and performers.
“The song was written by Mitch Rossell, a newer singer-songwriter (who) wrote Garth Brooks’ last No. 1, and who also opened Garth’s tour for the last three years, Dave Turnbull, a well known songwriter in Nashville, Richard Casper and myself,” he said.
The way it all came together makes sense, because King is a country musician through and through, so Nashville is a type of mecca for him.
“I prefer to play country,” King said. “I feel that with country, you can really express emotion in the song and it reaches a lot of people.”
Although King has been into music since he was much younger and performed in the choir at Bellefonte Area High School, he got away from it later in life due to his busy, military schedule. However, he came back to it out of necessity, as a way to heal.
“Once I joined the Marines, I really didn’t have time to continue,” he said. “But when I came back wounded, my therapist at the VA told me that I need to pick up a hobby that could help with regaining strength as well as hand/eye coordination due to my traumatic brain injury. I decided at that time that I was going to learn to play the guitar even though it was very challenging with the chords and trying to reteach my brain to work with my left hand.”
It was hard, but King was determined.
“I was able to teach myself how to play and eventually learned how to play ‘Strawberry Wine’ by Deanna Carter,” King said. “The reason I learned that song was because I was told by my daughters’ mom a while back that ‘Strawberry Wine’ was her favorite song and I wanted to surprise her and show her that through my determination, I was able to do it. I have been playing various songs since then.”