By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
Peter Jannuzzi may be a veteran, but he’s quick to say that his status as a veteran is by definition only.
He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1982-1991, in order to pay back the tuition costs of a medical school scholarship. He was stationed first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Fort Campbell, Ky., and then at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York state. Jannuzzi always considered himself to be an amateur musician, and when he saw a lot of his friends get deployed in the first Gulf War, he was inspired to write the song “American Way.”
Around early 2013, Jannuzzi was asked by a friend at the OASIS Center at Tunxis Community College to come and perform “American Way” for the veterans at the center. OASIS stands for Operation Academic Support for Incoming Service members. Jannuzzi says that the OASIS Center is aptly named, as it serves as a safe haven for student veterans to share their experiences and create a support system made almost entirely of people who are trying to deal with the same experience; being on active duty in the middle of a war.
“I got the idea that we could record the song and maybe sell it to raise money for the OASIS Center,” said Jannuzzi. “It’s a song about veterans and I could try to help out the veterans with the music.”
The OASIS Center at Tunxis opened in 2009, as a part of a larger initiative started in 2008 by the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs. All of Connecticut’s public colleges have a special space dedicated to veterans, where returning veteran students can encourage each other, as they transition back into civilian life.
“The OASIS used to have state funding, but now it relies on donations from civilians,” explained Jannuzzi. Donations such as the one from the General Federated Women’s Club of Bristol, Farmington Valley, and Plainville, who, along with other groups, helped to fund the expansion project at the Tunxis OASIS Center in 2012.
Due to insufficient funds, and a general lack of appropriate services, from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, veterans are unable to receive the help that they require after returning from active duty. Centers such as the OASIS Center try to provide support to those veterans. And, as Jannuzzi hopes, they will eventually be able to provide even more assistance.
It was around this time that Jannuzzi was introduced to Jim Chapdelaine while volunteering at University of Hartford Magnet School. Chapdelaine, a well-known musician, agreed to help Jannuzzi record the song, and in 2013, “American Way” was released on iTunes.
Jannuzzi admits that it didn’t sell many copies. “It only made about $110,” said Jannuzzi. “But I’m very happy with it, I’m very proud of it and I want as many people to see it as possible.”
Shortly afterward, Jannuzzi saw that Mazzarella Media, Inc. had won an award. Having known the founder, Tom Mazzarella, for many years, Jannuzzi reached out to him and asked if he would make a music video for the song. Mazzarella agreed, and said that after listening to “American Way” once, he had it on repeat for days. He also said that as he did more research to properly convey the meaning of the song, he learned so much about what the military does, which is much more than most people would think that they do.
“I kept on playing it and playing it, because it’s addictive,” said Mazzarella.
Jannuzzi has been asked to perform the song, with the video playing behind him, at multiple VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) functions and says that every time he does, it sparks more interest in the cause.
On Dec 12, Mazzarella and Jannuzzi were able to donate and present $10,000 to the OASIS Center at Tunxis Community Center, all of which was raised on the GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/americanway. If you visit the GoFundMe page, you can watch the music video for “American Way” and watch an informational video of Jannuzzi explaining why it is so important to help and support veterans.
Comments? Email tmurchison@BristolObserver.com.