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Dave Mason: An Album, a Tour and a Heart for Veterans

 

Work Vessels For Veterans
Work Vessels For Veterans

Towards the end of 2013, when Dave Mason’s new album Future’s Past was still in production and plans were still being made for his new tour Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam, Dave was kind enough to chat with me about the Veteran’s charity that he co-founded – Work Vessels for Veterans. Work Vessels for Veteransis an amazingly under the radar non-profit that gives Veterans the opportunity to make a living by supplying them with fundamental tools to do the work they need to do as they reestablish life back home. Their website offers recent stories about their work to provide a wounded Iraq Vet with an ATV, a wounded Afghanistan Veteran with his first tractor for his farm and a laptop for a Vet who is returning to college. Dave spoke with me about this charity, the war and his love/hate relationship with the internet…

me. Just to start out, for general purposes – are you a Veteran?

DM   I’m a Rock and Roll Veteran.

me. (Laughing) Good answer! You probably have some battle wounds from that lifestyle!

DM   Well, no explosions and no bullets flying

me. I’m guessing – and this just a guess – that you and I grew up in the about same era around the time of the Vietnam War and the anti-war protests – a time when the Veterans weren’t honored when they came home…

DM   Right

me. Looking back what were your thoughts on the war?

DM Well, that was pretty much when I moved to America and frankly I thought that, well, let me put it this way, I thought that the anger was pretty much misplaced and that it was directed at the young men and women who had to go fight – when the anger should have been directed more at the people who sent them. The way that the Vets were treated – especially from the Vietnam Era – was terrible. My point being that it was completely misplaced.

me. My neighbor is a Vietnam Veteran and he told me a story that really brought home to me how poorly they were treated and he made a good point – he said that with WWI and WWII, not only did they get greeted with parades , they came home as a group. He said that in Vietnam you were sent home by yourself – you didn’t have the company of the people that you were there with to return to your home and it was a very lonely feeling for him.

DM It undermines the morality of the country, socially, for that to have happened. In the First World War and the Second World War there were clearly defined reasons to go and defend a way of life – my Father was in the 1914-1918 War, my half brother was driving tanks in North Africa and basically up until 9/11 America had never seen anything here in its own country. Growing up I would go with my Father to places that were still bombed out – there were sections that were bombed out. War is ultimate madness, frankly. But like they say, the price of freedom is constant vigilance – so, again, there were probably more defined reasons back then – unlike what was happening with Vietnam.

me. So, possibly, the youth at the time knew something was wrong but didn’t know how to define it, to understand it. They protested because something wasn’t right- but the fall out was that the people we should have been supporting at the time came home and were vilified. The Veterans became the collateral damage from the war.

DM   Well, they were easy targets.

me. How did you become involved with this particular group – the Work Vessels for Veterans?

DM   We started about six years ago. A friend of mine named John Niekrash from Mystic, Connecticut, who is also a lobster fisherman, was looking to get a new boat. When he was thinking about trading in his old boat he said to me “I think I’m going to find a Vet and see if they can use this boat to do something with.” And that’s basically how it started. That’s why the little logo is a boat. So then we – myself, John , Dan Burns and a gentleman named Ted Knapp -we’re old friends – just started it up and then I suggested to them “why keep ourselves {limited} to just boats? Let’s look at the boat as a vessel – it gets you from here to here- so maybe we should just expand this to other things.”

me. That’s beautiful.

DM   We are pretty much under the radar, as an organization. In other words we’re an all volunteer group of people and so there isn’t any money spent on advertising and very minimal administrative stuff. So, all the money that we do get that passes through the charity actually goes where it’s supposed to go. We are the only charity out there with the Vets that actually specifically helps them start their own businesses. Our motto is that “We are not giving hand outs; we are giving a hand up.”

me. I like that. It’s to the point isn’t it?

DM   Well, you know, you can give someone fish everyday but if you teach them how to fish they can feed themselves for the rest of their lives. That’s the way we deal with things. We also, through Ted Knapp’s association, patch through a lot of laptop computers for education, or for business need or whatever. A gentleman, Adam Burke, who we helped start a Blueberry farm in Jacksonville, Florida four years ago – we acquired the land through the charity, the machinery, the fencing and all that stuff and he, in turn, hired other Vets. The plants themselves take about three years to mature so they are now up and running and they are a growing business. In March or April –somewhere around then – there is an award given that is the highest in the country – the Citizen’s Medal – and he was one of 12 out of 6,000 to receive the award and be honored by the White House. Again, they hire the Vets and on the farm they have a tree that has become a focal point because one of the things that has become a by- product of doing this is that these men are working through their post traumatic stress disorder far more quickly.

me. The work helps them heal….

DM I think that is has to do with the fact that if you can’t provide for yourself and your family it’s very demoralizing and so I think this gives them back some of their dignity and their pride in being able to support themselves and I think it helps their whole healing process. In other words, there’s nothing like good hard work to help the healing.

me. Engaging the hands, the mind, the body, the spirit…

DM   We have another gentleman who we helped start an office cleaning service who is doing very well in St. Louis. The company that Ted works for hires Vets and they find that Vets move – promotion wise – up through the ranks rather rapidly. These are very motivated people. They are used to working with a goal in mind. They are used to being focused. When they get rolled out of the service and are left here floundering around it’s another aspect of them falling to pieces, so to speak, not having any direction.

me. And, sometimes, no homes to go to…

DM   No homes…and I believe there is a suicide every other day.

me. I have heard that statistic and I have always maintained that “Homeland Security” should mean that no Vet remains homeless.

DM   Exactly.

me. “Homeland Security” should mean that they have a home to go to. It is really, truly hard to understand that our Veterans can be homeless when you consider what their contribution has been for our country.

DM   It is very sad.

me. Does this group point specifically to the Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars?

DM   No, no, we’re pretty much open to all Veterans.

me. The song that you wrote “Thank You” is beautiful. What inspired you to write it?

DM   I wrote it with someone who played with me for a while, Johnne Sambataro – I was thinking about writing something for our charity anyway and he had an idea so we got together and I thought “why not just ‘Thank You’?”

Thank You

me.  A “Thank You” they all deserve… 

 

Future's Past
Dave Mason

me.   You have a new album…

DM   Yes. And I’d like to point out that there really isn’t any way for people to know that artists, like myself, have anything new out. There’s no national radio anymore – there’s classic rock radio but they don’t play anything new.

me. I agree. We have artist who continue to be amazingly prolific but we only hear the song selections from 30 years ago.

DM   You’re stuck with the songs that you probably have at home anyway.

me. My album collection – oh yes!

DM   There is no real outlet for anything. That being said, after sort of fighting the internet which, for musicians and people with the written word, has become a double edge sword –it’s killing intellectual property because people are just taking it but at the same time, the only way get to around it is by using it via my Facebook page. I’ve also been asking people to just go to my website and just drop me an email so that I can directly let people know there is something new out.

me. Your tour schedules continues…

Now I have a tour with “Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam” which is essentially a little journey through the first two Traffic albums and taking people a little bit through that era.

me. That sounds like a show that every Dave Mason fan will love to see! Thank you Dave!

Dave Mason’s new album, Future’s Past, is available on vinyl. The album is a combination of new material as well as rerecorded classics (Dear Mr. Fantasy anyone?). Six years after the release of his last album, 26 Letters – 12 Notes, Dave’s newest album also pays homage to Robert Johnson with his cover of “Come on in My Kitchen.” Check out Dave’s website at http://www.davemasonmusic.com/homewhere you will find his incredible rock n roll history, his upcoming tour dates and you can purchase his latest album.

Work Vessels for Veterans

According to their website… “Work Vessels for Vets, Inc. (WVFV), is an IRS 501(c) (3) non- profit organization, that matches donations of vessels, vehicles, equipment, tools and electronics to Veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan as they start a business or pursue career education.” Please go to their website at www.workvesselsforveterans.org

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