2 Vets receive guitars with graduation - Atlanta VA Health Care System
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2 Vets receive guitars with graduation

2 Vets receive guitars with graduation
Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Guitars for Vets Atlanta chapter is proud to announce the graduation of two students: Veterans Paul Vairlas and Walter Alsobrook.

Guitars for Vets, Inc., (G4V), is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of ailing and injured military Veterans. G4V provides six free private lessons to Veterans at VA medical and community-based Vet centers. Veterans are referred to the program by local VA medical teams when the G4V program is integrated with a specific treatment regimen. Upon graduation, each Vet in the program is presented a new acoustic guitar, gig bag, strap, tuner, method book and a certificate of completion.

The private lessons are taught by volunteer instructors and are followed by group sessions that provide a forum for the Veterans to talk and play music with like-minded individuals, many of whom have had the same experiences, emotions and traumas. The music sessions provide a communal atmosphere.

Paul is also a current enrollee of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation & Recovery Center (PRRC). "When I feel bored or anxiety or stressed, I play my guitar and it relieves my mind," Paul explained. "It gives me something constructive to do that I enjoy, and it keeps me from being isolated."

As a consequence of war, many warriors come home with physical and emotional injuries. Through self-expression and the healing power of music, the feelings of joy and purpose that can be lost after suffering trauma, can be restored. Music can heal the soul, including the many emotional wounds -- seen and unseen -- borne by Veterans of war. They need help.

"When we were approached by the prospective volunteer instructor for this program, we had no idea the treatment teams would be so enthusiastic," said Derenda McCook, Chief, Voluntary Service. "Now, given the feedback from Veterans, volunteers and staff, this is exactly the type of non-traditional volunteer assignment that provides direct assistance to our Veterans."

Guitars for Vets started in 2007, after Dan Van Buskirk, a Vietnam Veteran who suffered severe post traumatic stress disorder, began taking guitar lessons.

Noticing a remarkable improvement in his symptoms, he and instructor Patrick Nettesheim decided to share what they were experiencing with other Veterans in the Milwaukee area. The ideas resounded strongly with other musicians.

The program attracts musicians who want to help by sharing their love of guitar with those in need. You don’t have to be a Veteran to help.

"We at PRRC have been supportive of Paul’s collaboration with Guitars for Vets, as our program strives to provide the Veterans with creative opportunities to enrich their recovery progress and quality of life," added Nhien Dutkin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and PRRC Recovery Coordinator.

There are chapters in more than 20 states and several overseas areas. G4V is supported by private donations and accepts mostly acoustic instruments due to practicality. The program receives no government funding. A big part of creating a successful local program is having strong local music community support from guitar techs, musicians, and music retailers – people with strong resources to aid in creating media interest, donations and volunteers.

For more information on how to contribute to the program in any way, visit guitars4vets.org. Monetary contributions and donated instruments are tax deductible.

Donated guitars are either used as practice guitars or sold in order to raise funds for the program. Unrepairable guitars are turning into visual art through the G4V’ Art Strings program and sold at events.

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