Local singer-songwriter John Leonard has been honing his craft for a good, long-time now. He has been strumming his guitar and crooning his lyrics for going on four decades. Leonard also happens to be a veteran of the United States military, having served 10 years in the Air Force as well as a stint in the Army National Guard. It was not until relatively recently, however, that Leonard the musician and Leonard the veteran came together when he wrote his song “Wounded Warrior (Dream to be Free).” The song pays homage to wounded veterans that have been returning from Iraq and Afghanistan bearing scars and wounds both physical and mental. In seeking a way to commemorate these wounded soldiers, Leonard was able to seal a breach that he did not realize existed within his own self.
“It’s a song I wrote with wounded warriors in mind,” said Leonard. “It’s my thank you and my tribute to them. It’s a shout-out to wounded warriors who may be troubled and may have given up. The message is don’t give up. There’s a place for you where you can get help.” The story does not end there. When “Wounded Warrior” was complete, Leonard wanted to test the song with wounded veterans to make sure that it rang true and did not offend the sensibilities of veterans. He therefore played the song for some of the vets that staff the American Lake Veterans Golf Course. As fate would have it, Leonard stopped by the golf course with his freshly finished song on his smart phone at exactly the moment that the Friends of American Lake Veterans Golf Course was having one of its meetings. We went upstairs and by the time I got out of there I ended up playing this song eight separate times to eight separate individuals that were in there,” said Leonard.
Since that day, Leonard has become increasingly involved with veterans groups and veterans causes. “I felt there was an empty place within me that I needed to fill,” said Leonard. “I took inventory of my skills and where I come from and what I’ve done and that big picture just all came together for me.” He was awarded a medallion when he played for the Warrior Transition Battalion, a Fort Lewis unit that works with wounded veterans to keep them productive in active military roles or to help them readjust to civilian life. He is also involved with the Veterans Family Fund of America and the National Alliance to End Veteran Suicide. He donates 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of CDs to the American Lake Veterans Golf Course, which is trying to raise funds to build a Jack Nicklaus-designed back nine. Leonard’s next performance will be at an event called Operation Fun, a day for military families to enjoy themselves at the Narrows Plaza Bowl. The event is free to military and $10 for the general public. In addition to entertainment there will be bowling, skating and other games. Various service vendors offer information that is geared toward creating community awareness and supporting the mission to end veteran suicide.
To hear Leonard’s “Wounded Warrior (Dream to be Free)” visit http://facebook.com/musicbyjohnleonard or http://youtube.com/johnlmusic. Further information on Operation Fun is at http://www.NA2EVS.org/operationfun.
John Leonard’s upcoming performances
Nov. 3, 12-1 p.m.
Narrows Plaza Bowl
2200 Mildred St. W., University Place
John Leonard along with special guest and master on harmonica, Bob McCluskey
Nov. 9, 7-9 p.m.
Forza Coffee Company
4040 Orchard St. W., Fircrest
Nov. 17, 7-9 p.m.
Forza Coffee Company
1520 Wilmington Dr., DuPont