A University of Phoenix alumna is going above and beyond the call of duty to inspire veterans after her own experience of life during and after the military. Takosha Swan, a combat veteran of the 2003 Iraqi war, is the mind and voice behind “The Veteran Anthem,” the song making a positive impact on the discussion around ex-military mental health, suicide and homelessness.
Military Experience and University of Phoenix Education
Swan has been forging her own unique path since she was a teenager. Rather than heading to college after graduating high school, which was the traditional next step her parents had envisioned, Swan enlisted in the military. She explained that she made her decision based on whatever would best help her develop as a person. Going straight from high school to college did not seem like the right option for her personal growth. Instead, she felt the military could help her “accomplish all the goals that were inside me that I didn’t even know about yet.”
Joining the military provided the opportunities she had hoped for. However, leaving the service and returning to civilian life proved more challenging. Despite securing a job as a civilian worker with the military, Swan describes how the position “fell through” because of the war.
Finding herself without employment, Swan decided to turn back to education, enrolling at University of Phoenix. Her studies, which worked flexibly around her schedule, earned her a bachelor’s degree in business management and an MBA. She explains that University of Phoenix “really played an instrumental part in my life.” Today, Swan serves on Georgia’s Veteran Suicide Prevention Team and is a state public official for veterans. The governor of Georgia appointed her to this role in 2019.
The Missing Piece
The transition into civilian life was tough for Swan but also for her husband, who had retired from a 23-year career in the military. Subsequently, Swan became interested in the services available to help veterans, especially those aiming to prevent veteran suicide and homelessness.
Aware of the many programs and nonprofit organizations available to ex-service members, Swan described seeing veterans on the street and realizing that something was preventing their motivation to access the tools they needed to move ahead in life. “I saw that it’s not that we don’t have access to the resource,” Swan stated. “It was the inspirational piece that was missing.” This sparked her idea of “The Veteran Anthem.”
The Veteran Anthem
Alongside her career in the military, Swan is also a singer, songwriter and author. She has been singing her whole life and finds inspiration in writing music. Feeling the drive to do more to “inspire people to want to live,” it was natural to Swan to write a song to uplift military veterans. The name of the piece came first: “The Veteran Anthem.” Swan wrote the lyrics in a day, then spent around one month setting them to music, working with a friend from the Alpharetta Symphony Orchestra.
In February 2020, Swan attended a Black History Month event at the White House. After the event, she took the completed anthem to the office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who encouraged her to produce a video for the song. She did just that on her return to Georgia. She also wrote two legislative bills, one for “The Veteran Anthem” to become the state song for Georgian veterans and the other for the U.S. Congress to recognize “The Veteran Anthem” as the veterans’ national anthem.
Mental Health in the Veteran Community
Also known as “The Suicide Prevention Song,” Swan’s anthem has since been gaining exposure through the video and live performances. She wants “The Veteran Anthem” to remind service members and veterans that “after the military, there’s more life to be lived.” She explains that many veterans are lacking inspiration to pursue a life outside of their military careers.
Her hope is that veterans hearing the song remember their inherent worth, as life in the military can make it easy to “forget our value.” Often, Swan explained, veterans feel valueless and unimportant. Swan’s outlook, and the message in the anthem, is that ex-service members have even more to offer the civilian world thanks to the skills they have learned during their time in the military.
The Importance of Connection
Swan says that “The Veteran Anthem” also holds a message of hope for family members of veterans, as it can be hard for them to relate to or understand the struggles of their loved ones. Similarly, service members often find it hard to connect with those who haven’t served in the military. She believes finding a point of commonality between veterans and non-veterans is crucial. Swan hopes that whenever a veteran hears the anthem, they can feel more valued and appreciated. This sense of connectedness, in turn, could contribute to individuals being less likely to pursue suicidal ideology. “We need to learn how to connect with each other,” Swan emphasized. “So that’s what the anthem is about.”
About University of Phoenix
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