Sunny War’s ‘Deployed and Destroyed’ Tells a Difficult Story of Friendship [Exclusive Premiere]
Sunny War first met her friend Zach while busking on Los Angeles' Venice Beach Boardwalk. They were both around 22 years old, and were both talented street musicians who liked to hang out and drink coffee together on their breaks from performing.
"He was really, really good," War remembers of her old friend. "He played piano and guitar, and sang. You could always tell that something was a little off, but it was really just in the last couple of years that he really went crazy."
Zach -- and the complicated relationship War has with him -- is the inspiration behind "Deployed and Destroyed," the newest release from the singer's upcoming album, Simple Syrup. When she met Zach, War explains, he had recently been discharged from the Navy, though she adds that the end of his military service may have been hastened by "something with his mental [state] -- I think they kind of kicked him out, because he's kind of crazy."
Unfortunately, the tepid support Zach received from the local Veterans Affairs office and the fact that he was homeless -- and, therefore, didn't have a mailing address or an easy way to fill out paperwork -- exacerbated his mental health conditions. "Now, he's this stereotypical veteran on the street that's just, like, schizophrenic," War adds flatly.
"He calls me from jail all the time. Mostly, he just wants me to get in contact with his mom for him, but sometimes, it's like, 'Can you send me some money?'" she shares. "I kinda helped him out the first couple times, and then it just became, like, 'I can't keep [doing this].'"
War noticed her friend slipping into a pattern, she says: He was in and out of jail, and, meanwhile, his mental health was worsening and his drug use was ramping up at an alarming rate.
"The last time I talked to him, he was like, 'Oh, I have a release date, and I'm gonna get sober,'" War recalls. "And he's done this before: He went to a sober living [facility], and he was there for, like, three days, and then he relapsed, and he ended up getting arrested again."
Listen to Sunny War's "Deployed and Destroyed":
While Zach hasn't heard "Deployed and Destroyed," War says he has heard her sentiment that inspired the song. She wrote to him in jail, to explain why she couldn't keep sending him money and also to tell him about the death of a mutual friend of theirs: a painter they knew from their busking days.
And while War knows she can't keep helping Zach the way he asks her to, it's not for lack of love or support for him. After all, their situations aren't all that dissimilar.
"We did the same drugs, you know? I had to go and get treatment and everything. So I want to support him in that," she reasons. "I hope that in the future, he's like, 'Yeah, I have a year of sobriety, and I'm working the steps.' That's when I wanna reconnect with him. But like, I can't just keep sending [him] money in jail ... And I do love him.
"People had to do that to me, too," she adds, after a beat. "When I was still using, people had to step away. But that actually helped me realize the rock bottom thing. like, 'Wow, my mom doesn't trust me to be at her house right now.'"
Like a lot of songwriters, War counts music as an outlet for grappling with her feelings and navigating difficult situations she or her friends may be facing. But as personal as the story told in "Deployed and Destroyed" is, it's not just an anecdote: War is pointing out how the U.S. military so often fails its veterans, particularly when it comes to mental health.
"It just made me look at it and realize, 'Well, they need a lot more help,'" the singer says. "You can't just expect them to be able to go [to the VA]. Like, [Zach] had nowhere to get mail because he was homeless. He kept saying, all the time, 'I'm gonna get an apartment. They're gonna get me an apartment.' But [because he was homeless], he couldn't actually go through all the paperwork he had to [in order] to do that."
Activism is an important part of War's life: She founded an LA-based chapter of Food Not Bombs in 2019, and she's a passionate advocate for Black Lives Matter. The singer says she's inspired to create change by the friends around her.
"I didn't feel that people could do things. I think I got inspired by people around me, because I've always been in the punk scene, and a lot of those people are activists," War reflects. "I just started paying more attention, and feeling more empowered by my friends."
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