Age: 33 | Arlington, Virginia
U.S. Army, Operation Enduring Freedom, 2002-2008
Founder and Director, Veteran Artist Program
Brian McDonald didn’t have a typical childhood. He grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan as the son of missionaries, where he sang and performed for creative arts. There were high expectations that he would go on to pursue music and lead a life on stage. In 2001, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in vocal performance. A few months later, the horror of September 11 unfolded. BR put the arts on hold and enlisted in the U.S. Army.
He would go on to serve for six years as an Arabic linguist and special operator in the Joint Special Operations Command. His specialty brought him to Southeast Asia and Afghanistan. When he returned to the states, he settled in Washington, D.C. where he would continue to work in intelligence and deploy an additional four times as an operations and intelligence consultant for the Department of Defense. When he left the military in 2008, BR began to seek out ways to combine the arts and his military experience. A year later, he founded the Veteran Artist Program.
“People who join the military have a variety of different interests—some were artists, performers, actors, and singers before enlisting—then they get out, and they try to figure out what to do and how to move forward,” he said. “In my case, I asked myself, why can't I have my military experience meet my creative experience? So, I just went for it and started the Veteran Artist Program. We have a unique perspective and the ability to redefine the Veteran as an artist—and influence the communities we live in.”
Watch Brian's video