I find that I am lucky to live in a place where I feel appreciated for the many sacrifices that my service has provided. Although in the beginning, after my many tours, I admit that I was lost and felt hopeless. I even mentioned it at the tail-end of my book, “No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor”. In this part of the book, I thanked several people and organizations who made the difference in my life. Essentially, (and no bullshittin) their efforts helped save my life. I truly believe that the secret to finding hope after war is rediscovering nature, and rediscovering trust through fellowship. Operation Cherrybend is such a place. It is just local people in the community who want to make a difference in warriors lives. For an example, the Ellis family farm in Wilmington, Ohio is nestled in some of the best farming and hunting land that Ohio has to offer. They could easily pay no mind to the happenstance of the world; but the Ellis family is not like that. Instead, they go out of their way to reach out to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and country music talent to put on one of THE BEST veterans events in the nation!
Operation Cherrybend is the brainchild of Beth Ellis, the very young and very beautiful matriarch (tell her that i said that about her) of the Cherrybend endeavor. She had reached out to the country music community in Nashville, TN and shot out her idea. And in return, her idea was answered back with a resounding YES!!
Once a year, veterans of Iraq & Afghanistan from across the country gather to enjoy several days of outdoor activities such as pheasent hunting, trap & skeet shooting, a bass fishing competition, and some of the BEST down-home cooking provided by Traeger grills, by the way their website is at the bottom of this page. Operation Cherrybend is a place where the combat wounded can let down their guard and mingle, making friends (support network), and enjoy great music and outdoor activities with new found friends.
I truly believe in their mission and the difference they make. So if you are looking for a worthy cause, please consider donating to Operation Cherrybend!!
Country Music Artist and US Navy veteran Jared Ashley!!
With a friendly smile, a firm hand shake, and a soft pat on the back, I watched him greet the many wounded veterans that arrived at Operation Cherrybend. Some were in wheelchairs, some walked with prostetic legs, and some (like me) quietly entered not knowing what to expect. It was my first time here and my impression of him was that he was the guy-in-charge of activities, because he jumped right in to assist the others, not expecting any gratitude in return.
When the sun started its trek towards the far horizon, the tall cornstalks that surrounded us began to glow in its brilliant ambiance. The ice cold beer went down smooth as the smell of the barbecue grill filled the air with a wonderful fragrance. The sharp snap of a snare drum sounded and it quickly caught my attention. The band began to warm up, playing a few tunes. But when he took the stage, I was instantly impressed by the bands’ musicial talents and his powerful voice. Then it was revealed to me that Jared was in fact, a real Nashville Country singer who had been projected to be one of it’s brightest rising stars!!
I had no idea that Jared Ashley was a Country Music Artist. He came off as a normal friendly guy who served our nation, and now he was giving back by taking part in this awesome endeavor. He was humble and genuine. You know, that is what is so beautiful about the Country Music world, they are simply regular people with breathtaking musical talents and gigantic hearts!
Through my own experience, I have found that there is a look that veterans have. A weary expression that they wear that tells the stories of the hard lives they have lived and the many disappointments they continue navigate through as veterans in a bureaucratic system. But at Operation Cherrybend, I could see their tough exteriors replaced by huge smiles and hearty laughs; their defenses disarmed, their gates of trust opened.
Jared Ashley and the Ellis family farm sacrifice a ton of time to put on one hell of a show to honor wounded and disabled OIF & OEF veterans from around the nation. Some of Nashville’s best talents come out to spend time, show their appreciation, and sing their hearts out. This is an outstanding opportunity for Nashville to hear personal stories of honor, service, and sacrifice; and this too is a wonderful opportunity for these veterans to network and gain a support system of caring hearts.
I fell in love with his hit single “Last Train to Memphis” (posted below) and listen to it all the time. His song “Cherrybend” is a collaboration between him and Nashville Singer/Songwriter legend, Rick Tiger and it honors the work that the folks of Operation Cherrybend is doing. I am keeping my eye on Jared Asley, he has great stage presence and a great sound. It will be fun to watch his career in Country Music take off. Who knows? Maybe one day i’ll be saying “I knew him back when!” — and that would be totally cool!
Sal Gonzalez is probably best known publicly as the US Marine amputee on the hit TV show “America’s Got Talent”. But to those of us who calls him friend, he is nothing but pure inspiration. He spends a bit of his normal life as a Nashville singer/songwriter. However, through his gifted musical talent and his bigger than life personality, he has made it his personal mission to travel around the nation to entertain veterans and to spread his hope filled message of “life after injury”. Only second to his heart, the size of Sal’s smile disarms the most stubborn of souls, and through the power of music; fellowship is found and friendships are made. Sal is a regular at Operation Cherrybend, and we are lucky to have him!! Hit the button below to follow him on Instagram and support his message of healing!
Tyler Jay Satterfield
Bearing the signatures of a hundred battle-hardened warriors both still present and some gone, his guitar has accompanied him through the many hardships of a million miles. It was there with him in the burning desert sands of Iraq. It was his faithful companion through the many, many hardships that war provides. It comforted him and his bretheren through the tough times, and gave voice to celebration through the good. And every one of those signatures inscribed upon it’s face had made deep impressions upon his life, and ultimately, this guitar has become the roadmap to his battle-worn soul. Tyler Jay Satterfield is both a Marine Combat Veteran and Nashville Singer/Songwriter. Each song he sings paints the imagination with the many chapters of the weary Infantryman’s military experience at war. From the asshole Staff NCO who was fired in country for steroids as in the song “Uncle Rico”. To the overwhelming desire of leaving the service once you get home from a combat deployment “EAS Song”. And to the yearning for purpose and camaraderie absent of all of the bullshit games as in the song “Circus”. He sings with a heavy growl, and it is within that gravelly sound I am drawn to the strength and structure of his voice. Like the throaty guttural sound of a custom chopper’s exhaust pipes screaming down the highway, his voice is exquisitely beautiful in that it cannot be copied nor imitated; powerful as it may be, his voice is purely his and his alone. And it is within that beautiful guttural gravel, one can feel the pain of his stories turned to song. I have really big hopes for Tyler Jay Satterfield. His music is not the high polished, goodie two shoes of the commercial country sound. It is of real hardships lived, real lessons learned, real friends lost, and real regrets that burn deep down inside — all of which, this Marine and combat veteran, can identify with; and I truly love everything his voice delivers.
Jason Michael Carroll
A native of Youngsville, NC Jason had grown up in a strict religeous household that banned him from ever listening to the music played on the radio. But he persisted on and eventually rose to Country Music stardom! Discovered from a local talent show in 2004, Marine Corps veteran Jason Michael Carroll had made it big on the Country Music charts with “Alyssa Lies”, “Living our Love Song”, and “I Can Sleep when I’m Dead”. He continues to tour the country, but more importantly, he gives back to his roots whenever he can. He is a regular at Operation Cherrybend, playing music and hanging out with the other veterans. Honestly, he is a great down-to-earth guy who is desperatly in need of a haircut! Any volunteers? Hahaha! Just kidding Jason, please don’t kick my ass!