In 2007, a Milwaukee guitar instructor was introduced to a Vietnam-era Marine. The Marine wanted to learn to play guitar but felt the lasting affects of combat, in the form of post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD), had left him unable to coordinate the hands with the mind. After only a few months of working the with guitar instructor, the Marine discovered that the same strong spirit that helped him throughout his time in Vietnam was all he needed to play music. Together, the men realized that guitar lessons were both opportunities for self-expression and positive human interaction. The men shared what the learned with Veterans at The Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center Spinal Rehabilitation Unit. Guitars for Vets was born.
Today, there may be as many as 400,000 service members living with “invisible wounds of war”, particularly PTSD. Additionally, troops serving in military operations after September 11, 2001 have experienced more-frequent deployments, of greater lengths, with shorter rest periods than previous generations of warriors; they have been exposed to more prolonged periods of combat stress. Thanks to lower casualty rates overall as well as significant advances in many fields, from emergency medical treatment to body armor, warriors are increasingly surviving the battlefield, but with significant psychological and emotional trauma. As a result, there has never been a better time than now to support Veterans mental health wellness programs that are cost effective, safe, do not require specialized equipment or supplies and can be rapidly expanded to meet the very large need we face.
Guitars for Vets (G4V) is such a program. By encouraging self-expression and relationship building through music, G4V works with warriors to restore feelings of joy and purpose that can be lost after suffering trauma. To date, we are unaware of any other non-profit organization with the experience, relationships and resources to offer therapeutic guitar instruction to military Veterans on a national scale.