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From Iraqi battlefields to Nashville's music scene, how Marine veterans are using art to heal

Nashville, Tennessee (CNN)Growing up, Richard Casper always wanted to serve others. rice field. When he was in middle school, the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened and he realized how he would fulfill that calling.

"I had this urge in me," he said. ``I joined the Marine Corps infantry. Selected for special duty to protect President W. Bush. After obtaining permission and completing his 14-month mission, he was still determined to go.

"I was ready to die when we landed in Iraq," Casper said. "I was ready to do my job."

Within his first four months, his Humvee was attacked with his IED on his four occasions. During one mission, his best friend and gunner, Luke Yepsen, is shot by a sniper and dies beside him.

"We go to work the next day as if nothing happened, so it was very difficult to understand what had happened," Casper said. "When you are in the infantry they have to remove all your vulnerabilities. They have to. Because (otherwise) you cannot survive the war."

Casper was completely changed after serving in Iraq and struggled to make the transition home. He began failing the business courses he enrolled in and developed crippling anxiety.

"I couldn't do it," said Casper. "But I knew I was smart. You needed a certain IQ to defend the president."

, degenerative disc disease, and tinnitus.

"In 2007, they didn't know much about his PTS," Casper said. "I was told I couldn't learn new things."

Casper decided to change his major to art. Because he thought it would be easy to get an art degree.

"I didn't want to. I thought I had to," Casper said. "And art changed my life."

One of his early projects was a pastel painting of his friend Luke's tombstone. He chose red for his lawn. His classmates explained how he felt when they saw it and why they thought he was using a certain color.

"They said they used red because they saw him die, or they said they used red because they were angry," Casper said. "They understood me without me saying a word."

Casper had found an outlet for his pain, but later found other veterans suffering. I wanted to share the healing power of art with military personnel.

In 2013, he founded CreatiVets. This nonprofit provides an immersive visual his art and songwriting program to wounded veterans.

The Songwriting Program is his three-day complimentary trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where the veteran pairs up with skilled songwriters and musicians to write and record personal songs .

They are writing songs in the backstage dressing room at the Grand Ole Opry. For most veterans, it's their first time writing a song. The next day they record the song in the studio with a singer and session musicians.

"After they wrote that song, they're on Cloud His Nine because they're finally able to say the words they could never say before," Casper said. I was. "It's wonderful to see their life experiences turn from just stories I tell into songs I can share with everyone." It's a free, multi-week program at an art school, such as a university. Veterans spend time learning different mediums and working on their final project.

CNN Hero Richard Casper
CNN Hero Richard Casper

I'm not going to talk about myself, so I made art Then tell the story," Casper said. "You're going to talk about your art work and focus on it."

Casper's mission is to save lives and find veterans who can benefit most from participating. That's why he aims to make each program as engaging as possible. How hard would it be to turn down a free trip to Nashville, Tennessee, because of that," he said. "No way. You could be in the worst situation of your life and think, 'Let's jump on that plane.'"

To date, the organization has over 900 retired members of his staff. I have supported the military. Through this work, Casper says he found a way to honor his purpose and his friends.

"Every time a veteran is saved, I think, 'Luke saved someone else,'" Casper said. "He was like, 'You're doing what you're supposed to do. You're really living for both of us right now.'"

talked about the job of Below is an edited version of their conversation.

CNN: Why did you join the US Marine Corps?

Richard Casper: There are many reasons why I joined the military. The biggest reason was this spirit of service. Another part is that I come from the military. It's a town of 1,100 people. All three of my older siblings are in prison. I don't think my father graduated from high school, but he did get his GED. My mother graduated from high school and worked in factories all her life. } CNN: Your organization has a deal with a record label. Casper:We help all veterans, but our music can affect all veterans Signed a management deal with Big Machine Records, the largest independent in the country Dent Records label, and now some of their artists are releasing music with vocals in their songs.Our music has been played over 4 million times.

Therefore , a very distinct voice like Justin Moore, and when you try to search for the song, you discover that the artist is actually CreatiVets featuring Justin Moore. Something'. And you searched us and found that we would pay for your air ticket, food, and housing to Nashville to do the same thing that veteran did. We legally reach out to the homes of veterans who don't ask for help.

CNN: What are your hopes for the future of CreatiVets?

Casper: I believe CreatiVets is now in a position to help design military programs. When you're transitioning, writing your resume, learning how to go to job interviews, helping your emotional intelligence, just like saying it's okay to write songs or do art. I think there should be something...

Now I would like to create a curriculum that students must complete when they drop out. Understanding that wherever you go in life, you can use art and music to heal yourself. You could be on the farthest boonie. You still have an outlet that no one else needs.You can do it yourself through art and tap into it. That's my big hope. It means that one day you can join the military as a transition point.

I would like to participate. Check out the CreatiVets website to learn how you can help.
To donate to CreatiVets via GoFundMe,click here