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Jackson Native Brings Healing Power Of Music To Wounded Vets

(BAMSouth.com Publisher Jack Criss recently spoke with his old friend, Jackson native Robert Henne, about his outstanding organization Warrior Cry Music Project and what it does for veterans. Robert’s handwritten bio follows because it ties in with his career work.)

Warrior Cry Music ProjectBAMSouth.com: Robert, you’re a Mississippi native. Where were you born and where did you go to school?

Henne: I was born at St. D in Jackson in 1969. I lived in the Jackson area for most of my school age years. Between 2nd and 6th grade I lived in a small town in south Mississippi called Escatawpa then came back to Jackson to finish off 6th grade. I continued through school and finished my education at Holmes CC in Ridgeland majoring in electronics and computers.

BAMSouth.com: When did you decide to leave the state for greener pastures? Was it for Texas originally?

Henne: After college, I was hired on by a Jackson based business (The ID Group) that served most all of MS and the MS Gulf Coast was my territory. After a year with them, they moved me to the coast to continue to manage sales and service for that territory working with our clients.

After about seven years with them, I met my future wife when she was stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi during her 3rd year in OB/GYN residency. After that we went to Virginia in the DC area for two years, San Francisco Bay area for three years, back to Keesler for a few months until Katrina and then to Maryland in the DC area for eight years and now in San Antonio, Texas for four years with one year remaining until her retirement from the Air Force ending with 21 years of active duty. My wife, Melinda, is a Colonel and physician sub-specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Her specialty and what she is most famous for is female pelvic robotic surgery, especially with tubal reversals.

BAMSouth.com: What is Warrior Cry Music Project? You are based where exactly?

Henne: Warrior Cry helps primarily military and VA hospitals set up music-based imagejpeg_2therapy programs to use music as part of the mental and physical rehab therapy for wounded service members. “Wounded” encompasses both mental and physical issues.

We also support other non-profits that helps vets and can better serve them because of their location. We also serve a few private mental health facilities that cater to a large number of military PTSD patients and offer some support with guitar donations. We currently support 20 locations nationwide including Hawaii and the VA in Jackson, MS. I founded the orgainization about seven years ago at Walter Reed in DC. We are actually “based” wherever I currently live.

BAMSouth.com: When did you form Warrior Cry and what prompted you to start the organization?

Henne: When I originally started the program I quit my job and did this full time and supported it out of pocket until I found a non-profit that had similar ethics and and the same type of supportive mission as I did. We operated under their charter for many years and finally spread our wings and received our own 501c3 designation in 2015. We have been serving the wounded for over seven years now.

BAMSouth.com: What do you all primarily do for our veterans? Do you serve them only in Texas or all over the country?

warrior vetHenne: We help teach them to play the instrument that best fits their interest and injuries. If they grew up in the 80’s, I want to teach the vets the music they grew up with then. The music of their first kiss, first date, their party song and such. We want to offer positive reinforcement to help rewire the connections between the neurons in the brain and especially between the left and right hemispheres to help override the negative thought processes and help with a more positive thought process–not dwelling on the negative. If you have a hand injury, for instance, who wants to squeeze a ball? We prefer to help with guitar or piano lessons and such. As I mentioned before, we have 20 locations all over the country.

BAMSouth.com: Your official title is? How many on staff?

Henne: I am the Founder/Director and we have no one on staff. It’s just me. We are 100% volunteer. No payroll at all. We have only a handful of true volunteers that contribute directly to the operation and management of the organization. Many dozens of volunteers across the country, but they primarily belong to each location where they volunteer.

BAMSouth.com: Has Warrior Cry ever  received any national exposure, TV spots, etc.?

Henne: Nothing on a nation level since we are a small and “boutique” organization. We have also never tried for anything of that nature in the past, to be honest.

BAMSouth.com: Some vet organizations have come under a lot of scrutiny later for false use of funds. What makes warrior Cry different and reputable? How can people check your reputation?

Henne: It gets very frustrating when you entrust an organization to fulfill their fiduciary duty to its supporters and it is not accomplished. It makes it so hard for every other non-profit after that. It puts a black eye on the entire industry.

One thing that makes WCMP stand out is we are all volunteer. There are no 339856_2349169775589_1440430911_32642719_1668128602_osalaries, no CEO taking a large portion of donations. We also have no brick and mortar locations and that really helps to keep expenses down. The only expenses we really have are standard office supplies, legal, accounting, travel and supplies to perform our mission. Our donations actually hit their mark.

Another thing that is different about us is that we only raise what we need. We have a very low budget and have very minimal needs overall when looking at the big picture. Our thinking is if we already have our budget funded for the year, give other organizations an opportunity at the funding. It takes a village to support the thousands of needs out there and we refuse to take more than our fair share.

One of the best ways to find out about organizations is to ask for a copy of their books. You can look up many websites that track non profits and give them grades based on performance, but it is really misleading. Our organization, for instance, has no information because our budget is so small, our federal 990m filing does not even show up because we do not meet the minimal amount for full filings and do what is called a postcard filing. Its literally that small. We are a small fish for a reason. To use the money for which our supporters intended. We also receive a lot of corporate support from instrument companies that help keep our fundraising to a minimum.

BAMSouth.com: Can you give us a few success stories that would move our readers and demonstrate what you all do?

Henne: One of the most moving to me was a bilateral amputee at the hips, a guy who was about 19, I believe, and felt he had nothing to look forward to including relationships. He wanted to learn to play guitar so he could play and sing and give him the opportunity for young ladies to get to know him playing and talking around a campfire, for instance, before they saw him move around and realize he was different. He wanted a fighting chance for them to know him as a man and not just through his appearance and what was so different about him. That was huge for me.

Another very important thing for us is that we have never lost an active participant in out programs to suicide. That is a huge part of this work for me. We did lose one young lady that we had just agreed to start helping, but she never made it to her first therapy lessons. I only wish we could have gotten to her sooner–she really had something special.

BAMSouth.com: You went into this, but please elaborate: Do you operate solely by donations, cash or otherwise?

Henne: We do fundraisers in clubs mostly since that is where the music is and bands donate their shows for us to conduct fundraising events. We always try and do silent auctions at our events also. Additionally, we receive donations online at our website warriorcry.org and through sales of shirts and other items.

We have both music-based corporate supporters like Taylor guitars, Yamaha, Texas Music Water and American Music Water and such. along with non-music based businesses that just support what we do, including some real estate agencies in the area.

BAMSouth.com: Ever received recognition from the US Government or any branches of the military?

Henne: We do receive some recognition from many of the branches in form of letters thanking us for our support, but have never received anything official from higher levels. We try to avoid the limelight with the Federal Government as much as possible due to red tape. The more red tape, the less we can do our jobs. We have never applied for a grant and have no intentions.

BAMSouth.com: Anything else you’d like to add? Anecdotes, more success stories, etc.?

Henne: Everyone knows how music can change your mood and the way you think.warrior vet in hospital When you are sad or going through a breakup, it never fails, every song on the radio rips your heart out. When you have a long drive, you crank up fun and upbeat music to keep you energized. You have never been to a sporting event with slow, romantic songs playing and there is a reason for that. Music can take you from one place/mood to an entirely different place. Music can change your life. Like our true tagline is: Chicks dig guitars and scars. You have the scars, we provide the guitars. The PC version is guitars and scars!

BAMSouth.com: Your biggest challenge now? Greatest reward?

Henne: Keeping the mission on point.

With fewer members injured, there are fewer injured coming into the hospitals and that is a great thing. I would love to be out of business. But, was we all know, we are still treating wounded from Vietnam, Korea and such. There is still a lot to do, just a lot less trauma-based. Thank God!

My greatest reward has been the friends I have made over the years that have also changed my life. It also makes me proud that even though I never served this country, I am considered a part of that family by many. That truly touches me.

BAMSouth.com: Just out of curiosity for our readers: how supportive has your home state of Mississippi been to Warrior Cry?

Henne: Honestly, there have been a few supporters in Mississippi that have been amazing. Our largest individual single donation was from Jackson. Overall, though, Mississippi is one of the smallest supporters out of our active states we target for funding. I hope this article changes that!

(Go to www.warriorcry.org for more information on this outstanding organization)

Warrior Cry Music Project Founder Robert Henne Bio–A New Reason And Outlook

“I started playing the guitar, bass and drums around age of 14 and keyboards around the age of 17. I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted to play so I figured I would try most of the rock instruments. All throughout my teen years and into my early adulthood I played in multiple bands playing multiple different instruments throughout parts of the southeast.

Unfortunately, I didn’t play much for many years after college and my “real job.” It wasn’t until I had a bad auto accident in 2002 that music became a large part of my life again. I had a head injury and a bad back injury and music became my therapy, my peace and my salvation once again.

I had to learn to do many things over again and some things I still can’t remember or do because of my injuries. I have no feeling in most of my left leg or fingers on both hands. Playing is still a struggle, but I am now accustomed to a life of struggle and pain.

As fate would have it, my wife is in the military, so as a dependent I get to see the same physicians that our wounded soldiers see. I realized one day when I was at Walter Reed, the old original Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC in the pain clinic waiting room and I realized I was the only one with two arms and two legs. It was a shock to me and I felt very ashamed at what I felt pain, depression and anxiety was compared to these kids.

Needless to say that day was a wake up call for me. I thought about how music helped me through healing and trying to get my life, mind and body back on track. I also felt just looking into their faces that paying my taxes just was not enough to help them. I thought to myself why can’t I try and use music to help the wounded, so I spoke to my wife and different department heads at Walter Reed and we came up with a plan and started a music program. That was the beginning of Warrior Cry Music Project over sic years ago.

Now with approximately 20 military, VA hospitals and other wounded military focused health care organizations across the country including Hawaii, we are slowly growing and helping to save and heal lives through music.

We have worked directly and indirectly with thousands of wounded soldiers from across the country and I still hear stories regularly from many of them that we have worked with in the past of the changes that music has made in their lives. Their spouses echo their statements.

Honestly, I have to say I never expected helping others to heal me as much as it did working with these wounded.

They have shown me that no matter how hard things are, there’s always someone who has it worse and if they can fight, I can fight.”

BamSOUTH

BamSOUTH

Contributing Writer
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