Jerry Grantland always had music. During high school, his tours in Iraq, struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, and through today, Grantland could get behind the drum kit and zone out.
"Music's the one thing that never changed for me. It's just a great outlet where I can back there and nothing else matters," Grantland said.
Grantland, a Roxborough resident, gets a chance to combine his work and passion through a new web series. Bands of Brothers brings together veterans and professional musicians to raise money for those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder. The episodes culminate with a benefit concert at World Cafe Live on Veterans Day.
Growing up in Landsdowne, Delaware County, Grantland played in punk bands while attending Cardinal O'Hara High School. Throughout his senior year, Grantland lacked a specific direction he wanted to point his life to. That changed on Sept. 11, 2001.
"That day it all clicked. I kept thinking about what I wanted to do, and then it happened. It was right there, and 9/11 put me in the right direction," he said.
After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army where he served for six years, including time in Iraq. He returned to the United States in 2009, working as a recruiter. It was then he began experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
"It took me some time to come to grips and realize that what I'm dealing with is not normal," he said.
For him, simple things set him off. Time away from warzone helped, as did the ability to develop coping mechanisms.
While overseas, Grantland seldom got the opportunity to play drums, maybe a dozen times. Back in America, he began playing as a way to escape. He currently drums for the band 58 Fury, which plays the in Manayunk Nov. 17.
"I certainly have a better handle on it today, and music, bands are a great distraction. Some ways, I've improved, but in other ways, it will never be the same. Except playing drums. That's consistent," he said.
Friends tease Grantland for his facial features while playing drums, which he admits is unusual, but for him, it represents his safe place.
Now, Grantland works for the Veterans Affairs office in East Falls, handling claims for veterans. It was there a co-worker tipped him off on Bands of Brothers.
A nonprofit, Bands of Brothers works to "let veterans know there is hope, connecting them with people who can help, and raising money for treatment." The web series pits a variety veterans from across the Delaware Valley (and Pittsburgh, too) with music professionals. Three bands will be formed and the weekly episodes, which debuted Thursday, will chronicle their progress leading up to the concert.
As of now, Grantland is the only drummer, so he's excited to to play with all the groups. So far, the experience has been unique. He said meeting and working with Mark Rivera, Billy Joel's saxophonist, was a big highlight.
"My dad is a huge fan, so for me to be with him, take pictures and text my dad about was great," he said.
In addition, he appreciated the camaraderie he had with his fellow servicemen.
"We all have that bond. We might not know each other yet, but you can always make a joke about the food, talk about things we all share," he said.