As the 2.5 million troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan return home, many struggle with the aftermath of combat — being ambushed, taking rocket fire, losing buddies — as they face reentry into civilian life. After singer-songwriter Darden Smith performed at a US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, he returned to Austin, Texas, determined “to use the art of songwriting in the service of our brothers and sisters in arms.”

Smith partnered with Mary Judd, an expert in communications and educational programming, to bring SongwritingWith:Soldiers (SW:S) to life. Since October 2012, with Smith serving as Creative Director and Judd as Executive Director, the program has enabled service members to share their stories, often for the first time, through collaborative songwriting with professional musicians.

_AND5191.NEFTo give voice to somebody who might not otherwise be able to describe their experiences is more gratifying than anything I’ve ever done.  — Darden Smith

With my song, I can finally put my pack down.  — Sgt. Kenneth Sargent