GAMA Grantee – Guitars 4 Vets

For just $200, Guitars for Vets can provide one Veteran0246dfeb-3c99-4f3e-9589-07a368c0daa1-thumbnail with 10 weeks of individualized guitar instruction, a new acoustic guitar and a complete guitar accessory kit.  A recent grant of $6,000 from GAMA will enable Guitars for Vets to launch six new chapters over the next year capable of providing services to 60 Veterans!

In 2007, Patrick Nettesheim, a Milwaukee musician and guitar instructor was introduced to Vietnam-era Marine, Dan Van Buskirk. For years Dan had wanted to learn how to play guitar but felt that the effects of combat, in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), would make it difficult for him to succeed. After only a few months of working with Patrick, Dan discovered that the strong spirit that helped him survive the war was all he needed to play music. Together the men realized that the guitar lessons were both opportunities for self expression and positive human interaction. Dan and Patrick shared what they learned with Vets at the local Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Guitars for Vets was born.

Today, there are more than 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.  Thanks to lower casualty rates overall as well as significant advances in many fields, from emergency medical treatment to body armor, Veterans 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 wellness programs that are cost effective, safe, do not require specialized equipment or supplies and can be rapidly expanded to meet a growing need.

Guitars for Vets (G4V) is such a program.  By encouraging self-expression and relationship building through music, G4V works with Veterans to restore feelings of joy and purpose that can be lost after suffering trauma.

Currently G4V operate 60 chapters in 30 states with the assistance of nearly 200 volunteers nationwide.  Over the past nine years the 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 by providing free guitar instruction, a new acoustic guitar and a guitar accessory kit in a structured program run by volunteers, primarily through Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities and community-based medical centers.  Because G4V chapters are typically located at VA medical facilities, the program is uniquely positioned to attract and sustain Veteran participation.  Veterans are typically referred to the G4V program by their VA healthcare provider.

The weekly private guitar lessons provided by G4V 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.