Richard Casper was a junior in high school when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. “I had this urge inside of me,” he said. “I joined the Marine Corps infantry. … I wanted to be the first person fighting.” During basic training, he was selected for a special duty of guarding then-President George W. Bush at Camp David. Once he completed that assignment, he deployed, leading to experiences like his Humvee being hit by explosives and a good friend being shot by a sniper and dying beside him. “It was so hard to comprehend because we go to work the next day like nothing happened,” Richard said. After Iraq, he struggled with the transition home, failing college business courses and developed crippling anxiety. He went to his local Veterans Administration (VA) hospital and learned he had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among other medical issues. Little was known about PTSD in 2007 and Richard was told he would be unable to learn. He decided to change his major to art, thinking it would be easier, and discovered an outlet for his pain. In 2013, he founded CreatiVets, a nonprofit that offers arts programs to wounded combat veterans. (If you or a veteran you know is interested in a unique healing opportunity, visit creativets.org.) Since the month of November is for honoring our beloved veterans, NRA Country chose Richard Casper—Marine Corps veteran, CEO and artist—as the NRA Country Artist of the Month. NRA Country’s Lisa Supernaugh asked him a few questions in between his classes and events.
LS: First, we would like to thank you from the bottom of our heart for all you do. Tell us a little about what called you to serve?
RC: My dad was one of 11 kids and all his brothers served in the military. I had a calling from a very young age to join as well, but it wasn’t until 9/11 that I decided I wanted to be a Marine.
LS: Please tell us how you had this amazing idea to help veterans heal through art.
RC: Through art, I learned how to tell my story without telling my story and that took a huge weight off. More of my anxiety and depression went away. I ended up coming to Nashville to write with a hit writer; he took what I was working on for a year and turned it into a song in less than two hours. I decided I needed to give every wounded veteran the opportunity.
LS: Can you tell us about the songwriting program?
RC: It’s a four-day trip for veterans to write backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. CreatiVets covers all costs for the veterans to get to Nashville and pairs them with a mentor. It’s fun, but it’s also a lifesaving program. They have to write about something they are struggling with and that’s when the healing starts.
LS: Does CreatiVets receive any proceeds for song downloads to further the mission of healing through the arts?
RC: We can be found on any streaming platform—search CreatiVets. You can also go to creativets.org. We do receive money from the streams and downloads, so we appreciate everyone who wants to give back by listening.
LS: What’s next for your mission?
RC: We have a lot of work to do in the next few years, including launching our music platform, launching chapters around the country and trying to reach as many veterans as possible. We work with some VA hospitals and nonprofit partners to provide our life-changing programs to their already amazing programs in over 20 states now.
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