Nonprofit is helping veterans make music

U.S. Army veteran and Nashville recording artist Scotty Hasting is pursuing a career in music, thanks to Operation Encore. Photo credit AARP

When Scotty Hasting enlisted in the U.S Army, he fully expected to make it his career.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out as planned,” he said in AARP’s Reporting for Duty.

And while most people don’t transition out of the military into being signed by a Nashville record label, that’s exactly where life has taken Hasting.

To get to Hasting’s present, you’ve got to know about his past. In 2011, he was shot five times in the shoulder, four times in the hip and once in the thigh while leading his platoon on patrol in Afghanistan, leaving him with bullet fragments all over his body.

“I had a collapsed lung,” he said. “I’m missing a whole chunk out of my hip. For the longest time, I didn’t want to accept that it happened.”

Hasting soon discovered that the more he talked about his injuries, the more it made him realize that he needed to find a new purpose and direction in life. He soon found himself playing the guitar as a way to heal.

“When you have depression or PTSD, you suffer and it’s kind of very black and white,” he said. “You see everything exactly how it was. Whereas with songwriting, I was able to be creative and use my imagination. I was able to bring color back into my life.”

Hasting knew he needed to be onstage following a performance at an open mic night. That led him to search for an organization that helped veterans with music.

He soon found Operation Encore, a nonprofit formed by two U.S. Air Force members that uses music to close the divide between civilians and those who have served in the military.

Operation Encore co-founders retired Col. Rob Raymond and Reserve Col. Erik Brine who met while in the Air Force ROTC at Boston University. Ten years later, the friends found themselves in Washington, D.C., focusing on laws centering on military and veteran issues.

To their surprise, Raymond and Brine also found that most people don’t know what a true veteran is, leading them to start Operation Encore in 2018.

“They think about people who may have experienced tragedy, people that are lost or experiencing loss, PTSD, depression, suicide, these negative attributes,” said Brine. “People miss the mark that [veterans] are still courageous. Many of them are heroes; they’re professionals.”

Operation Encore knew immediately that Hasting had talent, Brine said.

“Scotty was one of those people we could look at and say, ‘Not only do we think this person is talented and can really make it in this business, but there’s somebody that we can help,’ ” said Brine.

Music producer Doug Johnson, who has worked with artists like Blake Shelton and Hank Williams Jr., is working with Hasting.

“We definitely don’t take credit for Scotty’s success. We are happy to be one of the many things that could make him successful,” said Brine.

Hasting is now performing all over the country and has released three singles. His latest single, "How Do You Choose," is about his best friend, Spc. Adam Hamiliton, who was killed in Afghanistan.

The song tackles the question of God’s choosing to spare Hasting, over others who did not survive.

“With my music I want to be able to connect with someone and help them,” said Hasting. “In 2020, I was just some dude learning how to play the guitar that wanted to write songs, and started writing songs, and now here we are.”

To date, Operation Encore has helped 31 veteran artists record over 100 singles.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: AARP