Heroes’ Voices – Ten Years of Service

Sometimes, I have to pinch myself.

I had a dream of bringing music and poetry to Veterans, especially those recovering from Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), to help them build community and learn how to cope with civilian life. Thanks to your support, I have been living that dream for ten years.

After a meeting with then-Senator Barbara Boxer’s staff in 2013, Heroes’ Voices began in-person programming at the VA Medical Center in Menlo Park, CA. (Coincidentally, that Menlo Park VA was the first government facility to specifically identify and treat “Post Traumatic Stress” in Veterans returning from the war in Vietnam.) I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at how supportive the VA music therapists would be, nor at how many Veterans would attend our weekly singing and poetry sessions.

We launched Guitar Corps a year later, providing free guitars and free weekly guitar lessons to Veterans at the Menlo Park VA. Guitar Corps, the brainchild of San Francisco guitar teacher Larry Chung, grew out of the partnership we developed with Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto. Gryphon donated the first free guitars to Heroes’ Voices, and continues to be a steadfast supporter of Guitar Corps to this day.

Our Guitar Corps lessons soon expanded to the Veterans War Memorial Building in San Francisco and the VA Clinic in San Bruno, facilitated by guitar teacher Paul Young. During the Covid shutdown, Guitar Corps was forced to move its lessons online. But there was an expected silver lining to this change: Veterans from all over the country began to attend our lessons. Guitar Corps continues to serve Veterans from more than a dozen states with free guitars and weekly online lessons.

Once these seeds were planted, our outreach and partnerships truly began to blossom. The programs we have established in the San Francisco Bay Area over the last ten years include:

  • Singing programs for the Psychiatric ICU and Geriatric wards at the San Francisco VA at Fort Miley.
  • Singing, poetry and guitar programs at the VA Clinic in San Bruno, CA.
  • Singing programs serving retired and disabled Veterans at Cal-Vet Home in Yountville, CA.
  • Singing and guitar programs for military personnel with severe PTSD, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, at The Pathway Home in Yountville, CA.
  • Singing and poetry programs for Veteran inmates in partnership with Swords to Plowshares at the San Francisco County Jail.
  • Singing programs for Veteran inmates at San Quentin State Prison.
  • Monthly “Blue Grass Jams” for Veterans at the VA Hospital in Livermore, CA.
  • Singing programs at a Veterans housing facility in Colma, CA.
  • Psychological study on music and PTSD and social interaction with research psychologists at the Menlo Park VA.

Heroes’ Voices has also sponsored local, regional, and national programs that serve our Veterans, including:

  • National Veteran’s Poetry Contest, co-sponsored by George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia, and with the help of Principal Advisor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
  • Guitar Corps programming for local and student Veterans at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA.
  • Workshop on music and the brain at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia.
  • An ongoing, cooperative relationship with the Wellness Center, in residence at the War Memorial Veterans Building in San Francisco.

None of this would have been possible without the generous support we received from people like you. Thank you for making my dreams – and the dreams of hundreds of Veterans – come true. Please consider making a donation today so that we can continue to serve our Veterans, who have already given us so much.

Thank you,
Rick Harrell
Executive Director