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    Musical Meditation: Airman finds resilience playing guitar

    Musical Meditation: Airman finds resilience playing guitar

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Zoe Russell | U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel Asselta, 1st Combat Camera Squadron combat broadcast...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell 

    1st Combat Camera Squadron         

    JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- It’s 2:30 p.m. on a sunny winter day. The temperature is unusually warm for it being February, and a bird sings from one of the many magnolia trees surrounding a gazebo on Joint Base Charleston. Perched casually on the gazebo’s railing, a blue guitar pick hanging from his lips, acoustic guitar in hand, Tech. Sgt. Daniel Asselta, 1st Combat Camera Squadron combat broadcast journalist, begins to play.

    As individual notes pour from the guitar, Asselta plays with a sense of comfort and ease that only comes from hundreds of hours of practice. Suddenly, his fingers begin to move with more intensity and the tempo increases. The hustle and bustle of the base is slowly drowned out by the song weaved with subtle hints of folk and blues. Even the bird in the magnolia trees stops chirping, as if to listen, too. Asselta’s fingers are now moving so fast, it sounds like three guitars are playing at once. No one else is around the gazebo to witness this impromptu concert, except a lone Airmen taking a brief smoke break.

    When the song concludes, Asselta looks up and shyly smiles.

    “That was an original,” he said.

    The Airman sitting nearby looks up as a plume of smoke curls from his mouth, subtly nodding his head in approval, before returning to look off in the distance. Life seemed to have completely stopped for five tranquil minutes.

    “Music has been big part of my life,” explained the tall brunette. “It’s gotten me through a lot.”

    It’s evident for anyone who would happen to walk past the gazebo and see Asselta, that he and his guitar are a naturally cohesive unit. Even throughout the interview, Asselta never sets the guitar down, occasionally strumming a few strings when he finishes answering a question as if to punctuate his thoughts.

    He describes the first time he held a guitar, which he found in his dad’s basement. The young Asselta immediately started playing the old, beat-up instrument and “making cool sounds.” A couple of years later, he started taking music lessons through his school and joined the orchestra. Asselta laughs while recounting his teenage years in Huntington, N.Y., when he discovered rock ‘n roll music and became the lead guitarist for a progressive metal band. When Asselta joined the United States Air Force, however, music took on a whole new meaning.

    Asselta purchased his first acoustic guitar in 2012. At the time, he was living at his first duty station in Belgium. The winters were long and isolating, and Asselta wanted a productive method to pass the time. He began to dabble in song writing and producing, but quickly realized that music had developed from a simple hobby into a resilience tool.

    “When I had a rough day, or a good day, I would go home, pick up a guitar and start strumming,” said Asselta. “I try to make what I’m feeling come out through the instrument. It’s a good way to shut off the brain and connect with myself through sound. It’s like a meditation for me.”

    Having a stress-relieving coping mechanism became incredibly important a few years later when Asselta was stationed at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

    “When I was stationed in Turkey, I was there during a rough time,” said Asselta. “The base transitioned from a support base to more of a combat operations base. I was forward deployed to various locations. Each time I’d return to the main base, I’d pick up a guitar to decompress.”

    Asselta is quiet for several minutes, lost in thought about the base thousands of miles away. Suddenly, his eyes light up.

    “One of the highlights of my military career was when I was at an undisclosed location in Turkey. Most of the guys were having a really bad day,” he said. Asselta found an old abandoned guitar in the make-shift recreation tent at his base, and walked over to the smoke pit.

    “I started playing ‘Let it Be’ by the Beatles. A few minutes later, I had six or seven people start singing along,” said Asselta. The satisfaction of knowing he had helped his wingmen escape the stress of combat, even for a moment, was incredibly rewarding for Asselta.

    Asselta highlights the importance of having a healthy outlet to use to unwind, particularly from the relentless demands of military life.

    “I do this for me. This is my way of expressing myself and taking care of my own resiliency needs. In my opinion, everyone needs something to fall back on. For someone else, it might be sports, or video games, or religion,” said Asselta. “Find something to put your attention to. Don’t become a workaholic.”

    He smiles and adjusts his guitar resting in his lap, ready to begin playing again.

    “I think music is mankind’s greatest invention,” Asselta said, with the passion and intensity of a true musician. “It’s been around since the dawn of time. People figured out they can decorate space through art, and through sound they can decorate time.”

    As the gentle notes from Asselta’s next song begin to fill the gazebo, another Airman who had wandered over to rest on the bench looks up and watches in contentment. The hustle and bustle of the base slowly fades out again, and all is right in the world. Asselta may never know how many people he helps find peace through his music.



    Date Taken: 02.20.2020
    Date Posted: 02.20.2020 14:36
    Story ID: 363525
    Hometown: HUNTINGTON, NY, US
    Hometown: LONG ISLAND, NY, US

    Web Views: 87
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