Updated Wed, Apr 24, 2013 9:51 am
Jonathan Parker is no ordinary Ohio University-Chillicothe student; rather, he is a combat veteran with a passion for music.
Parker, who is an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was also a member of the prestigious 82nd Airborne All American Chorus.
The former Army sergeant, who was an artillery forward observer during his enlistment from January 2007 through November 2010, toured across the United States and abroad with the chorus.
However, Parker began his pursuit of music long before his Army days.
"I have always been singing," Parker said. "I started learning guitar when I was 10 and in high school I had a 'garage' band where I performed at school and at events."
Parker, who recently sang the national anthem at on ROTC ball on the OU Athens campus, has always written songs as an outlet to express himself but didn’t realize how beneficial his songwriting was until returning from his enlistment.
"After some events in Iraq, I realized the healing power of my music," he said. "I understood there were others in pain, and we shared that, even though nobody wanted to speak about it."
One of Parker’s songs, "I Want the Pain To End," was written for those who have suffered a loss and to help them understand that tomorrow brings a new day, new hope and beginnings.
"When I got my 'battle rattle,' I had real problems with my short-term memory and other brain function but I could remember songs and I could sing,” Parker said. “My music helped with my physical healing as well as my mental health. You don't get ‘over it,’ but you learn to ‘get along’ with it. I am still a work-in-progress."
Parker’s power of musical healing is something he hopes will help others with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I want others who have served to know they are not alone in how they feel, and that it is 'normal,'" he said. "Sometimes the most alone you are is in a crowd where you do not feel understood."
Parker currently works at the VA Medical Center in Chillicothe and has goals to finish his bachelor’s degree in social work at OU-C and complete his master’s degree so he can work with his fellow veterans.
"Having walked in the shoes of a soldier, I know that there are experiences that the most well-meaning counselors may have empathy, but don’t really understand," he said. "I know what it is to fight to come through and continue on. I know the warrior ethos."