Researchers attempt to define what it means to be a Veteran, but it is rare for that question to be directly asked of Veterans. Traditionally, experimenters define variables and ask the group of interest to provide responses without being included in the research process or reaping any direct benefit from participation. We aim to use a Community-based Participatory Action Research (CbPAR) model to amplify their voices and focus on what is important to them. We sought to allow Veterans to define their identity in their own words. Researchers served as messengers to help amplify Veteran voices and disseminate their stories to the larger community. This study was part of a larger research project using both photovoice and lyric analysis to help define the “sights and sounds” of Veteran identity. In this study, we asked Veterans to identify songs that answered the question, “What does being a Veteran mean to you?” Veterans worked individually and in groups with researchers through the process of lyric analysis and thematic exploration. Lyric analysis is a music therapy intervention in which the client and therapist listen to a song together and discuss the connection the lyrics have to the client’s life experiences. Transcripts of interviews were analyzed to uncover shared themes that help researchers understand how they conceptualize their identity as Veterans. External validity was addressed through member checking, in which participants reviewed transcripts, discussed identified themes, and chose songs to present as a part of an immersive, interactive gallery experience for the community to allow for their stories to be told. The following identity themes have emerged in preliminary thematic analysis: Honor, integrity, pride, isolation/loneliness, duty, sacrifice, humanity, and identity conflict. We assert that more research should be done with the Veteran community, not to them.


Georgia College & State University Academic Affairs Faculty Research Grant

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