Army Gulf War Veteran Darius Carter shares the story behind his #OperationSong effort, a song called “Thankful.”
After graduating high school in 1983 and taking inspiration from his Veteran family, Midwest native Darius Carter joined the Army. For three years, he served active duty with the 82nd Airborne and deployed to Panama and Honduras during the Iran-Contra affair. Following his Army career, Carter joined the Marine Corps and served during the Gulf War, which left him with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that limited his service to six months. He officially left the military in 1992 and worked in construction for 20 years. He eventually earned a college degree in 2016, graduating with honors.
Carter joined Operation Song after VA offered him the opportunity to try music therapy to cope with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He went to Nashville, Tennessee, where he learned about songwriting from award-winning songwriters. Before meeting them, he was nervous, struggling to come up with a song idea and lyrics. Suddenly, the word “thankful” popped into his head, and from there, he was able to compose his song.
“Thankful” is a light-hearted and mellow country-inspired piece that identifies all the things Carter is grateful for. He starts by saying he is thankful for Oct. 1983 – the month and year that he got baptized prior to enlisting in the military. Carter wanted to be christened because he felt that he might be killed while serving. In Advanced Individual Training (AIT), when he developed a 104-degree fever, he was declared dead for eight seconds. Other incidents included a parachute fall from 800 feet and an airplane fire. Together, these events have made Carter especially thankful for every day he gets to live.Faith was particularly important to him in his career. The church services he attended on Sundays allowed him to pause and regain focus for his missions.
Though his time in service left him with dark memories and physical injuries, Carter is glad he served; he calls it the “gift [he] had to give.” He was grateful for his training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was also appreciative for the smaller things, like MREs and his Walkman, which gave him temporary but effective relief from the chaos around him.
Carter feels lucky for the life he has – a sentiment accentuated by the line expressing that he is thankful he can say, “You’re welcome, America.” While he is proud of his service, Carter hopes to highlight the service of others from the Iran-Contra affair through his song. He hopes his piece will speak to spouses, caregivers and loved ones of military members who fight their own battles back home.
Writer: Joanna Hwang, Elizabeth Jefimova
Editor: Jacob Reis, Christopher Wilson
Fact Checker: Monique Quihuis
Graphic Designer: Katie Rahill