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The Sounds of Success: WWP Warrior Shares New Album and Life-Changing Musical Journey

Army veteran and musician Eric Haynes sings to his service dog Ciara during a performance. Eric recenly released an album, which includes a song written in honor of Ciara.
Army veteran and musician Eric Haynes sings to his service dog Ciara during a performance. Eric recently released an album, which includes a song written in honor of Ciara.

Army veteran Eric Haynes didn’t always know what he wanted to do with his life after he got out of the military. Sometimes, when the darkness would take over, he didn’t even know if he wanted to live. 

Eric returned from war in Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). He struggled to find balance in the civilian world, even finding himself homeless at one point. But in 2018, things began to turn around.

First, Eric connected with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and realized he wasn’t alone. He got involved with WWP Talk, a non-clinical, telephonic program that helps warriors with personal growth and non-judgmental support. His weekly calls from his WWP Talk partner allowed him to open up and gave him the encouragement to try new things.

Second, Eric leaned into his love of music, which led him to a life-changing event. As part of his mental health recovery, he attended a songwriting retreat in rural Georgia. Music had always been an escape for Eric during some of his darker days. It was at the retreat he met Ciara, a retired Army bomb-sniffing service dog. The two veterans would form an unbreakable bond.

With the support of Ciara and WWP, Eric was able to see a positive future to look forward to and a path to pursue his passion. Having that support allowed him to build his confidence and embrace the adventure.

“What’s most important I think is, if you want to do something, whether it's music, or whatever your passion is, that you can make dreams come true,” Eric said. “These things that you feel in your heart, put the hard work into it. It takes time, but it's not about the end result, it's about the journey.”

Open to Expression

Music can speak to a person’s soul. For Eric, it became a lifeline to deal with his trauma and express his joy. In 2000, Eric shared the first song he’d ever written, but only with his father. It was the first time he’d shared his songwriting and singing with anyone. He would sing that song at his father’s funeral two weeks later.

After that, he didn’t feel he had the confidence to sing to anyone again. That was until he met Ciara. With her by his side, he started going to open mic nights. He volunteered to sing at veterans’ events and benefits concerts. He started building his confidence and expressing himself more openly.

“She was that breakthrough for me,” Eric said of Ciara. “I think so many soldiers never recover when they come back from war or when they get out of the military. She was the bridge. And I went back to my hotel room, and I wrote the song ‘Tears of Joy.’ I knew when we went back home together, I was going to go for it.”

Finding a Safe Space in Music

Music is used as a form of therapy to help people manage stress and improve mental well-being. WWP has held music therapy workshops for warriors, which allows them to open up and bond with other veterans in ways they may not have been able to. 

“For me, [songwriting] was therapeutic,” Eric said. “When I'd be struggling, or going through something, I'd write about it.”

Eric also remembers the feeling of music being a safe space, even in a combat zone. When he was in Iraq, he and fellow soldiers were able to go see country music star Toby Keith perform and take a break from all that was going on around them. “For that hour and a half that I was there listening, it kind of brought me back home,” Eric said.

Eric hopes his music will have the same effect, especially on other veterans like him who may be dealing with PTSD or other mental health issues. “I hope that when people hear my music, it impacts them. I want people to be able to go to wherever that safe place is, a place away from their work, away from their ghosts, and just be able to relax and listen.”

“I just love how [music] ends up impacting others in such a neat way, Eric said. “I think as an artist, that's what I do. Sometimes it’s something that makes you think or pulls on your heartstrings, and sometimes, it's just fun.”

Find Out How WWP Can Help You Find Your Passion

Embracing the Journey

In May of 2022, Eric lost Ciara, but she left him with the tools to continue his musical journey successfully. A lot of his music was inspired by her, and his other loves, like his daughter and his wife, Donna.

Eric’s journey wasn’t a smooth one by any means, but he wouldn’t change it, because it all contributed to the life he has now, as well as the inspiration for his music. 

“Along the way, for me, it’s about the people I met, the places I get to go, and the experiences I get to have,” Eric said. “It’s all had such an amazing impact on my life. What I’ve learned isn't just for the music, but it’s ended up affecting my whole life.”

Coming Full Circle

Warrior Eric Haynes recently released his first album,
Warrior Eric Haynes recently released his first album, "Free," which is also streaming on multiple platforms..

Eric’s perseverance is paying off. He recently released his first album “Free” and had an album release party on June 16. In June, he was a spotlight artist on AirPlay Direct, a digital platform for artists, radio programmers, and music industry professionals.

“The album's not just about me. It's about a lot of my transformation to where I'm at,” Eric said. “There’s a song about my childhood and growing up. I got a song in there about my father and a song on there about my daughter. Of course, a song about Ciara. The song “Free” is about my military experience, and how I overcame things from that.”

A review of the album by artist Tom Collier of the band Held Hostage read: “I have had the privilege of knowing Eric and watching him evolve into a bonafide singer/songwriter. His new album ‘Free’ is top-notch and straight from his heart. This is a must-hear album that will give you chills.”

Eric’s songs from the album have even been played over the airwaves in Norway. He hopes to be able to start touring soon and release more albums.

“I’m getting to the point in the journey that I envisioned along the way, and now it's finally here and I’m able to enjoy it,” Eric said. “It's so exciting.”

But Eric knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support of his family, WWP, and, of course, Ciara. He wants to encourage other veterans to pursue their passions and know there is a path forward.

“I want them to know three things,” Eric said. “That they're not alone. That their story is important. And that there’s hope.”

Find Out How WWP Can Help Veterans Build a Better Future

Contact: — Paris Moulden, Public Relations,, 904.570.7910

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.




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