Addressing Veteran Suicides In Song And ProseNPR
Heard on All Things Considered
November 13, 2018
Dan Johnson knows something of the subject. The songwriter's relationship with suicide began when he was 10 years old. That year, 1987, Johnson's father — Terry Wayne Johnson, a Vietnam veteran, took his own life.
Earlier this year, Ft. Worth, Texas singer-songwriter Dan Johnson released a new album of songs, paired with a collection of fictional stories co-written with novelist Travis Erwin. The songs and stories include an imaginative cast of characters, from a grievously wounded veteran seeking salvation in drugs and alcohol, to an aging gun smuggler taking one last shot at love.
The album and companion book are a project of a non-profit founded by Johnson called Operation Hemingway — named after the famed author who experienced the carnage of the Spanish Civil War and who, at the age of 61, killed himself. The project is a homage not only to Johnson's own father but also to families like his who have endured the pain and grief of veteran suicide.
The concept came to Johnson during a tour of Hemingway's home in Key West. "I was there in his study. And when the rest of the tour group moved on I hung back." Johnson says he began imagining what it was like for the author near the end. "He couldn't go have any more adventures, he had become trapped in this old man's body. And I wondered what that must be like to get to the point where you don't feel like you have anything else you can give the world," he says.
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Dan Johnson "Hemingway"