I’ve met a lot of heroes these last eight years I’ve been a military wife. The first few months I lived in my Army town I remember looking around and being amazed on a nearly daily basis by the people I met, people for whom words like “honor” and “duty” really meant something — and I’m not only talking about the service members, but their spouses, parents and kids, too. Many days I felt like I’d been transported back a few generations — I hadn’t known people like this still existed.
Eight years later I haven’t changed my mind. I am still amazed almost every day by the people I meet in the military community and I consider myself very, very blessed to call these people my family. Today, with the recent Chinook crash on all of our hearts and minds, I want to introduce you to two of these “family” members I’ve met this summer while working on the country music PSA project for Blue Star Families.
Autumn Letendre’s name was already familiar to me. I’d heard her story and her music a few years ago and had even written about her on this blog, calling her my new hero then, but I got to actually meet Autumn herself and her adorable son Dillon in June. Guess what? She’s still my hero.
Autumn is a country singer. She is asked to play events all over the place and, because she lives in Indiana, is often called on to sing at racetracks. First Lady Michelle Obama even lifted up Autumn as an example to us all in a speech. She’s got a powerful voice and some powerful songs, too. Her voice has a haunting quality that’s a bit more folk than twang even reminds me a little of Dido. (Bear with me, I’m not a music writer – just a music fan.) You can watch a video for her song “Raise Your Flag” here:
Autumn’s story is just as powerful as her music and the way she’s handled her difficulties is just as beautiful as her lovely face. Autumn’s husband Capt. Brian Scott Letendre was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. Turning personal pain into heart-stirring music is a long tradition in the country world and Autumn has done just that. And, through her music and through The Golden Star U.S.A., a foundation she started to assist military families through deployments and the pre-and post deployment periods, she has provided comfort to many service members and their families in the process.
I also got to meet and chat some with Ryan Weaver while we were filming several artists for the PSAs. Ryan is also a country star and, get this, is still on ACTIVE DUTY in the Army, though he’ll be getting out soon. And, as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, he hasn’t shied away from danger. Two of Ryan’s older brothers, Steve and Aaron, also joined the Army and became Blackhawk pilots. Prior to becoming a helicopter pilot Ryan’s brother Aaron was an Army Ranger and took part in the 1993 battle for Mogadishu that became the basis for the book and movie, “Black Hawk Down.”
However, despite surviving Mogadishu and other deployments, Aaron died in 2004 when his Blackhawk was shot down by enemy fire in Iraq. At that time Ryan was also deployed in Iraq as a Blackhawk pilot. Aaron’s death, as you can imagine, greatly affected Ryan as a brother, a soldier and a musician. He hasn’t wanted to fly since then and now teaches Army aviators at Fort Rucker. He also decided to make a real go at his music dreams.
Ryan’s music has the same sort of gritty, rootsy sound fans love from artists like Jason Aldean. Not only is he and his story inspiring for military families, but his musical abilities are bound to make his a name known by many.