By Todd Rauch
For the Opelika
Veterans and songwriters throughout the Southeast recently gathered for the 6th Annual “Operation Song” retreat at Warriors Outreach Ranch, outside of Columbus. Operation Song is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower veterans and active duty military to tell their stories through the process of songwriting.
During the two-day event on Mar. 15 and 16, 10 veterans were paired with well-known songwriters from Nashville where they talked about their life in the military, including Opelika’s own Jamie Popwell. Wayne Womack, a Vietnam Veteran and participant of last year’s Operation Song retreat, submitted Popwell’s name to be participant at the current retreat. “Last year my song was called “Unconditional Love,” and it meant the world to me to have a song of my own,” Womack said. “Jamie does so much for his fellow Veterans and community I wanted him to have a song of his own to cherish.”
Popwell’s song, titled “Till God Calls Me Home,” was the fourth song that was featured during the live concert held at the end of the night on March 16, when the songwriters showcased all the songs live that were written composed earlier in the day. “I wanted my song to be focused on not being afraid to ask for help and the importance of continuing to serve your community after you get out of the military,” Popwell said. After ending his time as a private contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan Popwell did exactly that by starting his own nonprofit called “Flags for Vets,” which has installed more than 300 flagpoles throughout Alabama and across the United States.
Throughout the night, the symposium of songs were touching and captured unique experiences like what it means to be dependent of a service member serving overseas. One such song titled “Dandelion” spoke of the resiliency of the children of service members. Dandelions are the official flower of the military child because they are resilient and are able to put down roots and bloom wherever the wind carries them.
After the retreat, Operation Song will record all the songs written in a professional studio in Nashville to be handed out next years annual retreat. A true continuous cycle of healing for veterans and service members alike.
For more information about Operation Song, visit www.operationssong.org.