Reveille Retreat returns to TR Ranch in 2022

Weeklong songwriting retreat for veterans to host first in-person event since pandemic

By BOBBY HORECKA, Managing Editor, LaVacian: Lavaca County Farm & Home, Fall 2022

We lined up the vehicles
getting ready for war
just like we’d done 
1,000 times before 
we talked about the mission 
and what could go wrong
no matter what would happen
we would stay Army strong…

Bobby Henline

Bobby Henline has a knack for making people laugh, though you’d hardly expect it, just to look at him.  

Mainly because the retired Staff Sergeant always had such a serious look about him, even before the U.S. Army got ahold of him. It continues to be one of his most disarming features, a look he’s mastered as he makes his rounds on stages the world over. 

Not long before he left the Army, Henline was challenged by a friend to try his hand at comedy. He signed up for an open-mic night, and later, kept honing his craft at places near where he lived. Before he knew it, he was making people laugh everywhere. He even landed a Showtime special with a few fellow soldiers, which is huge for those in his line of work.

As is the case with some of the funniest folks around, Henline still has that serious side to him — an ultra-serious side, to be certain — one that would rather write poetry and songs to simply cracking jokes. So, when he’s not on stage, making people laugh, he does just that:

We checked our equipment 

and inspected our gear

bowed down our heads 

the chaplain led a prayer

I took the lead 

as we rolled out the gate

just another day 

no way of knowing our fate…

Dustin Welch grew up in Nashville, the son of a legendary songwriter and founder of a record label, doing the same ordinary things most kids his age do, were it not for who he did those things with. Like mention of him pairing up with the likes of Vince Gill on a recent project sparked an “Oh yeah, I used to hang out with his daughter. He’s a really nice guy.”

You can’t hardly grow up in that sort of environment without at least some of it rubbing off, he says. 

It explains his critically acclaimed first two solo records, Whisky Priest and Tijuana Bible — not quite like having Waylon Jennings call you his favorite songwriter of all time, like Dustin’s dad Kevin Welch had happen — yet more than enough to put him in Austin’s upper musical crust, where he makes his home today.

While writing music and performing is something he enjoys, Dustin says he couldn’t help feeling there must be something more. 

He met a few folks and read articles on how music had real therapeutic qualities for many. Most notably, soldiers returning home from the three-decades-long battle that was our War on Terror, which left several fighting as many mental battles, day-to-day, as they ever fought in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. Combined, these forces inspired Dustin and his dad to start what they called Soldier Songs and Voices, a nonprofit formed in 2011 with the primary aim of bringing the gift of music to veterans everywhere.

It began as a lone weekly workshop that provided free music, instruments and access to songwriters and musicians to any interested past or present service member. They met at the famed Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, where a young Southwest Texas State University student named George Strait and his Ace in the Hole Band first got their start back in the 1980s.

Soldier Songs and Voices grew to include 13 chapters nationwide. Welch says they even launched a similar organization in Australia, not long ago. 

One of the Soldier Songs and Voices highlights each year with its weeklong songwriters’ retreat, an event Welch dubbed the “Reveille Retreat.” This year’s event happens Nov. 14-19 at TR Ranch near Moravia, right here in Lavaca County.

It’s where Welch says he first met funnyman Bobby Henline, in one of his more serious moods: 

That bomb was big 

the noise was loud

I got evacuated 

from a dusty cloud

my heart stopped beating

my blood ran cold

swollen and burnt 

or so I was told

I prayed that God 

would come and set me free

the bomb took four

and only left me

“Man, is it hot out here,” Henline says as opener to one of his shows, deadpan as he can be. He fans himself with his stump, where his left hand once was. “Well just because some of you can handle it better than the rest of us…”

A nervous chuckle ripples through the crowd. You can almost read their thoughts: “Did he really just say that out loud?” 

Albeit it’s a killer line, especially from a fellow who looks like him, and he’s flawless in his delivery. Still, most resist truly relishing it, mostly because throngs of schoolteachers and every respectable adult we ever knew impressed upon us that we shouldn’t (usually with a wooden paddle or belt in hand, no less). For most, that’s what we were told since we could walk, probably. 

You’re not permitted to laugh at that sort of thing, they scorned. Laughing at another’s misfortune is just plain wrong.

Henline kicks that kind of thinking to the curb. You can’t help but laugh. 

Take, for example: “I like walking into (a drug store), grabbing one of those little plastic baskets and filling it plum to the brim with scar remover, just so I can watch the reaction of the checkout clerk when I say, ‘Tell me now, you think this is enough?’ ”

Or , “Sir, are you with the wounded veterans? Nope, I’m an astronaut. I was the first man to walk on the sun. Ow! Ooch! Hot! Hoof!” as he long-stride tippy toes his way across the stage, like a barefoot child might across a patch of pavement in August.  

If it doesn’t at least bring a smile to your lips, you might need a doctor. Tell him your sense of humor is kaput. 

Where Henline truly masters his art comes with how he can have you belly laughing one moment, and then say something so gut wrenching the next, you’ll be wiping tears and needing a hug. Back and forth, throughout his act.

Like when he tells that same crowd about the time, on his fourth tour in Iraq, three weeks after arrival, how an IED blast blew up his Humvee on April 7, 2007, a day he’d never forget because five men climbed in a vehicle and he was the only one to climb back out. 

All of it — both the laughs and the chills — come from his very own story:

Not a day goes by

I don’t fight the battle in my mind

through my eyes

the truth in every tear I cry

and I know I cried 

God knows I cried…

Much like the Reveille Retreat is just now getting back to in-person gatherings again, so too went the comic’s life with the pandemic. He’s just now building back his following. Rather fitting the two should mirror so closely, he says, because Reveille was the first time he told his story in any real way.

“I’d written down a few lines, but that was about it,” Henline says. “I hadn’t really come up with anything to do with it yet.” 

Come about Day 3, Henline says he awoke with Dustin Welch’s words ringing loud in his ears. Welch delivered a workshop session the day before on how one could tell his story through a song. Henline says he was ready to give it a shot. 

Songwriting coach Phoebe Hunt found him sifting through pages at the breakfast table, so he shared what he’d written with her and together, they began trimming the words and crafting the melody. Their resulting effort became “Not a Day Goes By,” which you’ve been reading (in italics) as this story progresses.

“A big part of songwriting is telling just enough that the words could really apply to most anything,” Welch says. “For most people, that means lots of editing, and they were hard at it. They had a look about them, like they were on to something truly big.”

When they started toying with melody, Welch says he stepped in to help with the arrangement. 

“What you hope for in a song like this is that it not only tells what happened but also conveys the trauma its writer experienced through his healing process, even its ugly parts,” Welch said. “I think this song does that and more.”

They were my angels

my guiding light

assuring me 

everything was gonna be alright…

Not a day goes by

I don’t fight the battle in my mind

through my eyes 

the truth in every tear I cry

not a day goes by

I don’t fight the battle in my mind

the war is over

but the battle’s still in my mind

the war is over … and I didn’t die

not a day goes by

not a day goes by…

Not what you might expect from a comic, that’s for sure. But Welch says he’s seen that same creative spark light perhaps hundreds of veterans’ faces now. For him, it’s what he was missing in music. By starting Soldier Songs and Voices, he says it helps him as much as he hopes it helps others.

“I’m hardly suggesting that music is some kind of heal-all, or that it should replace needed medications or any such thing,” Welch says. “Still, I’ve seen firsthand how coming to terms with the words of a song helps a soldier to come to terms with what haunts him. The song provides him a model on how to do it, I think. Lord knows there’s a lot worse things they could focus on besides music.”

It’s part of what got him where he is today, Henline says. 

There were others, he admits, but that one part alone took years. Much like all the skin grafts he has, painful beyond words at first, they simply need time to heal.

Much of his hurt now gone, Henline says that helps. A lot. So does having a caring and supportive partner who earlier this year became his bride, Jamie. He owes a lot to her, he says.

“I’ve got quite a lot to be thankful for, honestly,” he says. “I mean, I’m here, first off. That by itself is something of a miracle. But I have a purpose now, too, I think. To share my story, and that song is one way I do that. If just one person hears it, and it helps them, then I’ve just got to get back out there and do it again.”

There’s a noticeable change about him, too, evident in most every photograph taken of him these days. Apart from the scars. In fact, it’s engaging enough you don’t really notice the rest.

That change? Henline’s smile. He genuinely LOOKS happy now. There just may be something to that whole modeling thing Welch described, he says.

“Maybe it’s working that hard on the words of it — leaving out all the unnecessary parts and focusing on what matters most — but I don’t know,” he says. “I tell jokes for a living. I just know I felt better after it was done, and that’s the important part, right?”

Editor’s Note: All three contributors to this song — Bobby Henline, Phoebe Hunt and Dustin Welch — are credited as authors of “Not A Day Goes By.” They graciously granted us permission the use of these lyrics within our news products. An outstanding performance of it recorded by Isaac Lord can be heard at https://t.ly/HZVm.  All proceeds from its sale fund Henline’s soldier charities. Finally, Welch invited the newspaper out to the TR Ranch when his latest group gathers for the Reveille Retreat Nov. 14-19. Watch for that story sometime before year’s end.

Reveille Retreat returns to TR Ranch in 2022

Weeklong songwriting retreat for veterans to host first in-person event since pandemic

By BOBBY HORECKA

We lined up the vehicles

getting ready for war

just like we’d done 

1,000 times before 

we talked about the mission 

and what could go wrong

no matter what would happen

we would stay Army strong…

Bobby Henline has a knack for making people laugh, though you’d hardly expect it, just to look at him.  

Mainly because the retired Staff Sergeant always had such a serious look about him, even before the U.S. Army got ahold of him. It continues to be one of his most disarming features, a look he’s mastered as he makes his rounds on stages the world over. 

Not long before he left the Army, Henline was challenged by a friend to try his hand at comedy. He signed up for an open-mic night, and later, kept honing his craft at places near where he lived. Before he knew it, he was making people laugh everywhere. He even landed a Showtime special with a few fellow soldiers, which is huge for those in his line of work.

As is the case with some of the funniest folks around, Henline still has that serious side to him — an ultra-serious side, to be certain — one that would rather write poetry and songs to simply cracking jokes. So, when he’s not on stage, making people laugh, he does just that:

We checked our equipment 

and inspected our gear

bowed down our heads 

the chaplain led a prayer

I took the lead 

as we rolled out the gate

just another day 

no way of knowing our fate…

Dustin Welch grew up in Nashville, the son of a legendary songwriter and founder of a record label, doing the same ordinary things most kids his age do, were it not for who he did those things with. Like mention of him pairing up with the likes of Vince Gill on a recent project sparked an “Oh yeah, I used to hang out with his daughter. He’s a really nice guy.”

You can’t hardly grow up in that sort of environment without at least some of it rubbing off, he says. 

It explains his critically acclaimed first two solo records, Whisky Priest and Tijuana Bible — not quite like having Waylon Jennings call you his favorite songwriter of all time, like Dustin’s dad Kevin Welch had happen — yet more than enough to put him in Austin’s upper musical crust, where he makes his home today.

While writing music and performing is something he enjoys, Dustin says he couldn’t help feeling there must be something more. 

He met a few folks and read articles on how music had real therapeutic qualities for many. Most notably, soldiers returning home from the three-decades-long battle that was our War on Terror, which left several fighting as many mental battles, day-to-day, as they ever fought in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. Combined, these forces inspired Dustin and his dad to start what they called Soldier Songs and Voices, a nonprofit formed in 2011 with the primary aim of bringing the gift of music to veterans everywhere.

It began as a lone weekly workshop that provided free music, instruments and access to songwriters and musicians to any interested past or present service member. They met at the famed Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, where a young Southwest Texas State University student named George Strait and his Ace in the Hole Band first got their start back in the 1980s.

Soldier Songs and Voices grew to include 13 chapters nationwide. Welch says they even launched a similar organization in Australia, not long ago. 

One of the Soldier Songs and Voices highlights each year with its weeklong songwriters’ retreat, an event Welch dubbed the “Reveille Retreat.” This year’s event happens Nov. 14-19 at TR Ranch near Moravia, right here in Lavaca County.

It’s where Welch says he first met funnyman Bobby Henline, in one of his more serious moods: 

That bomb was big 

the noise was loud

I got evacuated 

from a dusty cloud

my heart stopped beating

my blood ran cold

swollen and burnt 

or so I was told

I prayed that God 

would come and set me free

the bomb took four

and only left me

“Man, is it hot out here,” Henline says as opener to one of his shows, deadpan as he can be. He fans himself with his stump, where his left hand once was. “Well just because some of you can handle it better than the rest of us…”

A nervous chuckle ripples through the crowd. You can almost read their thoughts: “Did he really just say that out loud?” 

Albeit it’s a killer line, especially from a fellow who looks like him, and he’s flawless in his delivery. Still, most resist truly relishing it, mostly because throngs of schoolteachers and every respectable adult we ever knew impressed upon us that we shouldn’t (usually with a wooden paddle or belt in hand, no less). For most, that’s what we were told since we could walk, probably. 

You’re not permitted to laugh at that sort of thing, they scorned. Laughing at another’s misfortune is just plain wrong.

Henline kicks that kind of thinking to the curb. You can’t help but laugh. 

Take, for example: “I like walking into (a drug store), grabbing one of those little plastic baskets and filling it plum to the brim with scar remover, just so I can watch the reaction of the checkout clerk when I say, ‘Tell me now, you think this is enough?’ ”

Or , “Sir, are you with the wounded veterans? Nope, I’m an astronaut. I was the first man to walk on the sun. Ow! Ooch! Hot! Hoof!” as he long-stride tippy toes his way across the stage, like a barefoot child might across a patch of pavement in August.  

If it doesn’t at least bring a smile to your lips, you might need a doctor. Tell him your sense of humor is kaput. 

Where Henline truly masters his art comes with how he can have you belly laughing one moment, and then say something so gut wrenching the next, you’ll be wiping tears and needing a hug. Back and forth, throughout his act.

Like when he tells that same crowd about the time, on his fourth tour in Iraq, three weeks after arrival, how an IED blast blew up his Humvee on April 7, 2007, a day he’d never forget because five men climbed in a vehicle and he was the only one to climb back out. 

All of it — both the laughs and the chills — come from his very own story:

Not a day goes by

I don’t fight the battle in my mind

through my eyes

the truth in every tear I cry

and I know I cried 

God knows I cried…

Much like the Reveille Retreat is just now getting back to in-person gatherings again, so too went the comic’s life with the pandemic. He’s just now building back his following. Rather fitting the two should mirror so closely, he says, because Reveille was the first time he told his story in any real way.

“I’d written down a few lines, but that was about it,” Henline says. “I hadn’t really come up with anything to do with it yet.” 

Come about Day 3, Henline says he awoke with Dustin Welch’s words ringing loud in his ears. Welch delivered a workshop session the day before on how one could tell his story through a song. Henline says he was ready to give it a shot. 

Songwriting coach Phoebe Hunt found him sifting through pages at the breakfast table, so he shared what he’d written with her and together, they began trimming the words and crafting the melody. Their resulting effort became “Not a Day Goes By,” which you’ve been reading (in italics) as this story progresses.

“A big part of songwriting is telling just enough that the words could really apply to most anything,” Welch says. “For most people, that means lots of editing, and they were hard at it. They had a look about them, like they were on to something truly big.”

When they started toying with melody, Welch says he stepped in to help with the arrangement. 

“What you hope for in a song like this is that it not only tells what happened but also conveys the trauma its writer experienced through his healing process, even its ugly parts,” Welch said. “I think this song does that and more.”

They were my angels

my guiding light

assuring me 

everything was gonna be alright…

Not a day goes by

I don’t fight the battle in my mind

through my eyes 

the truth in every tear I cry

not a day goes by

I don’t fight the battle in my mind

the war is over

but the battle’s still in my mind

the war is over … and I didn’t die

not a day goes by

not a day goes by…

Not what you might expect from a comic, that’s for sure. But Welch says he’s seen that same creative spark light perhaps hundreds of veterans’ faces now. For him, it’s what he was missing in music. By starting Soldier Songs and Voices, he says it helps him as much as he hopes it helps others.

“I’m hardly suggesting that music is some kind of heal-all, or that it should replace needed medications or any such thing,” Welch says. “Still, I’ve seen firsthand how coming to terms with the words of a song helps a soldier to come to terms with what haunts him. The song provides him a model on how to do it, I think. Lord knows there’s a lot worse things they could focus on besides music.”

It’s part of what got him where he is today, Henline says. 

There were others, he admits, but that one part alone took years. Much like all the skin grafts he has, painful beyond words at first, they simply need time to heal.

Much of his hurt now gone, Henline says that helps. A lot. So does having a caring and supportive partner who earlier this year became his bride, Jamie. He owes a lot to her, he says.

“I’ve got quite a lot to be thankful for, honestly,” he says. “I mean, I’m here, first off. That by itself is something of a miracle. But I have a purpose now, too, I think. To share my story, and that song is one way I do that. If just one person hears it, and it helps them, then I’ve just got to get back out there and do it again.”

There’s a noticeable change about him, too, evident in most every photograph taken of him these days. Apart from the scars. In fact, it’s engaging enough you don’t really notice the rest.

That change? Henline’s smile. He genuinely LOOKS happy now. There just may be something to that whole modeling thing Welch described, he says.

“Maybe it’s working that hard on the words of it — leaving out all the unnecessary parts and focusing on what matters most — but I don’t know,” he says. “I tell jokes for a living. I just know I felt better after it was done, and that’s the important part, right?”

Editor’s Note: All three contributors to this song — Bobby Henline, Phoebe Hunt and Dustin Welch — are credited as authors of “Not A Day Goes By.” They graciously granted us permission the use of these lyrics within our news products. An outstanding performance of it recorded by Isaac Lord can be heard at https://t.ly/HZVm.  All proceeds from its sale fund Henline’s soldier charities. Finally, Welch invited the newspaper out to the TR Ranch when his latest group gathers for the Reveille Retreat Nov. 14-19. Watch for that story sometime before year’s end.

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