Jason Everman – Guitarist for Nirvana and Sound Garden and Also a Green Beret
Ok, I will readily admit, I hadn’t a clue as to who this guy is. And for the record, I wouldn’t recognize the music of Nirvana or Soundgarden; I’m too old. I came of age in the 60s. The music I listened to and was most drawn to was the Motown sound: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, The Temptations, and the Supremes. You know, “stuff you could dance to.” On the other hand, there were the folk songs of Peter, Paul, and Mary, or Bob Dylan with those classic lyrics and poetic depth. That said, this story about Jason Everman, a rock star musician and a veteran, is unusual, engaging, and inspiring.
I found his story in my Google news feed recently. It was on the War History Online site, and it caught my eye. I imagine that the Gulf War and the Iraq/Afghanistan veterans know his name and have listened to the music of the bands he played with back then. Maybe some of those who served during the 90s and early 2000s know about his story, but it may be quite a surprise to others. This long-haired, rockstar guy with piercings played in bands that were well-known to those of his generation. One does not usually speak of a rock star in the same sentence with terms like U.S. Army Ranger or Green Beret. But each of those descriptions is a rich part of Jason Everman’s story.
Everman was born in Alaska on October 16, 1967. According to the War History Online article, as the result of an incident, I’m guessing in middle school or early high school, in which he had blown up a toilet with a firecracker, he was placed into therapy. It was there that he was encouraged to learn to play the guitar. Clearly, the introduction to music through the guitar proved to be instrumental in what would follow years later. He played in several bands during his high school years, and, during this time, he met Chad Channing, who would later become a drummer for the band Nirvana.
In 1989, Everman was hired by Nirvana himself as a second guitarist. He went on tour with the band following the release of their first album, “Bleach,” but was fired at the end of the tour. The article in War History Online says that the firing was due to his “moodiness.” Later in the year, he was hired by Soundgarden as a temporary bassist. His tenure with Soundgarden was longer, but he was again fired by that band. He then played guitar for the band Mind Funk.
Curiously, it was a book that Everman picked up and read at this time that challenged him to move in another direction. The book was the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. Cellini was a 16th-century Renaissance man, a sculptor, goldsmith, and author. An idea that Everman encountered in Cellini’s autobiography was the idea that “well-rounded men were simultaneously philosophers, artists, and warriors.” Something in him recognized that he was an artist, but he was lacking in the other two areas in his life. It was at this time that Everman had a conversation with an acquaintance of his who was a Navy veteran, and the idea of going into the military entered his thinking.
He joined the United States Army in 1994 and did his basic training at Fort Benning, GA. After basic training, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Ranger Regiment at Fort Lewis, WA. It was a time of peace, and, as a result, his original four-year contract was relatively uneventful. Everman left the Army in 1998. He was still a man in search of some deeper meaning in his life, so he did some traveling in the Himalayas, experimenting with Buddhism, but eventually came to realize that was not the answer he was seeking.
It was not clear in the article why he was “soon offered a position as a Green Beret” after getting back home from his travels. I don’t know what it is like today, but in my time, when you signed up for a four-year hitch, you would still have a two-year obligation on your contract after the four years on active duty. You could choose to do either active or inactive reserve status in those last two years. The War History Online article was not clear about this, so I don’t know what the reason was for this Green Beret invitation. But he did go back into the Army, and he completed the Green Beret Qualification Course and was assigned to A Team, 3rd Special Forces Group.
He would see combat action in both Iraq and Afghanistan with A Team, where he apparently earned an “impressive reputation.” He is quoted in the War History Online article as saying that it was “probably the most profound experience of my life…. It takes an event as extreme as war that simultaneously brings out both the worst and the best in people.”
You may remember the identifying qualities of a well-rounded man in the 16th-century book by Benvenuto Cellini that had been influential in Everman’s development: philosopher, artist, and warrior. When Everman received an honorable discharge from the Army in 2006, he could say that he was an artist and now a warrior, but there was one more element to address.
After leaving the Army, he embarked on continuing his education. He entered Columbia University’s School of General Studies in NYC, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He then went on to complete a master’s degree from Norwich University. Everman could now say that he was the well-rounded man, the artist, warrior, and philosopher that Benvenuto Cellini described in his 16th-century autobiography.
Still a musician, he has started a band with a fellow veteran, Brad Thomas, called Silence & Light. All of the band members are U.S. Military veterans. Their music is about the experiences of veterans and first responders. As an artist, he has the gift to inspire through his music. As a warrior, he knows the realities of war, and as a philosopher, he knows the importance of each of these elements in shaping a good life, a life of responsibility beyond the self. As a result, the band gives a significant amount of their earnings to charities that deal with veteran and first responder issues and concerns.
We thank Jason Everman, artist, warrior, and philosopher, for his notable service as a Green Beret and for his continuing service to fellow veterans through his music.Whizzco