At one of our music workshops, a young wounded vet named Joel said to me, “I used to play guitar. I played in a band. Because of my injury I can’t remember things, so I can’t play anymore.” I paused for a moment, then said, “Have you tried?” and I handed him my guitar. He slowly took my guitar in his hands, looked at it for a moment, and then nailed a series of florid guitar licks. He looked up at me with a look of both joy and disbelief in his eyes and I said, “I guess you remember more than you think.” For many vets with PTSD, music is the bridge that can take them safely from a turbulent past to a healthy future.
Thanks to the generous support we have received from foundations, community business leaders and friends like you, Heroes’ Voices has proudly served Joey and over 2000 veterans over the last four years, many with PTSD. We’ve gathered at VA Centers and hospitals, at the San Francisco County Jail, and in our free community-based “Guitar Corps” music sessions.
We’ve also met with the Congressional Veterans Service Roundtable at the U.S. Capitol, and here in San Francisco. When we launched our National Veterans Poetry Contest last year, we established a dynamic partnership with George Mason University in Virginia. In fact, they have just published a “chapbook” of the 40 top veterans’ poems from the contest and our partnership with them will continue for next year’s National Veterans Poetry Contest as well.
But we’re particularly proud of a research program we co-sponsored with the Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research, (PAVIR) at the Menlo Park VA. Dr. Benjamin Graham was a resident researcher at the Menlo Park VA, specializing in PTSD when he led Heroes’ Voices “Guitar Corps” lessons for vets and studied a range of psychological and sociological effects of music on the veterans who took lessons. While the study was of limited scope, it broke important ground. Now the work continues!
We are delighted to announce that Heroes’ Voices has established a new regional partnership! Dr. Graham will soon begin a new research program in collaboration with Humboldt State University and the Redwood Veterans Center in Eureka, California. As in all our “Guitar Corps” programs, the veterans will get to keep their guitars after ten lessons. Psychology students at Humboldt State University will be working closely with Dr. Graham, compiling and analyzing data on the positive impacts that music has on veterans with battle-related challenges.
The Humboldt State students will not only be working on data. They will also provide on-site observations that they will be sharing through blogs and photographs. We look forward to posting these blogs and photos on the Heroes’ Voices web site.
On this Veterans Day, we hope you’ll take a moment to consider the daily challenges faced by veterans who leave the service and find themselves adrift in a world of personal chaos and confusion.
We believe in the healing power of music and hope that you do, too.
Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor those who have served our country, especially those whose lives have been forever affected by their experience. Please consider honoring those veterans today with a donation to Heroes’ Voices.