“restoring the feelings of joy and purpose that can be lost after suffering trauma”

Our Mission

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.

“connect with other veterans that are going through the same things you are”

Program Overview

Guitars for Vets is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2007. We currently operate over 30 chapters in 15 states with the assistance of over 100 volunteers nationwide. Over the past six years, our organization has refined a guitar instruction program aimed at providing Veterans struggling with PTSD and other emotional distress a unique therapeutic alternative. G4V pursues its mission to share the healing power of music by providing free guitar instruction, a new acoustic guitar and a guitar accessory kit in a structured program run by volunteers, primarily through Veterans Administration (VA) facilities and community-based medical centers.

The weekly private guitar lessons provided by our volunteers are individualized and designed to help students learn at their own pace while accommodating any physical and/or emotional challenges. Monthly group sessions are organized at each chapter to provide Veterans a communal atmosphere to talk and continue to play music with peers who have shared similar experiences, emotions and traumas. In G4V group sessions, the connection created between individuals who are both warriors AND guitar players serves as a catalyst for positive human interaction. Veterans who regularly attend group sessions build confidence to further pursue creative self-expression and engagement within their communities. Many G4V graduates and group session attendees go on to perform at local fundraisers and teach guitar lessons in their local G4V chapter.

To date, G4V has completed over 12,000 guitar lessons and distributed over 2,000 guitars to veterans. Over the years, we have observed the many ways that our program is enhancing the lives of warriors suffering with mental, physical and emotional distress. We are very excited to now have clinical trial data supporting our belief in the power of our program. Outcomes from our recently completed study included double-digit percentage reductions in PTSD and depression symptoms and double-digit percentage improvements in quality of life for Veterans enrolled in the study. A copy of the study results can be viewed here:

Guitars for Vets: Evaluating psychological outcome of a novel music therapy

Active Chapters