SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Moral Injury Institute and the Vet Center on Campbell have partnered with several organizations in an effort to mend the minds of veterans through music.
“This is the first time I’ve ever played guitar, or even picked one up I think,” recalled war veteran John Cowen when asked about his musical experience.
Cowen is one member of a group of veterans experiencing the healing powers of music therapy, while learning a new skill.
“I don’t even see it sometimes– when they tell me I’m doing [a good job] with it, but I keep trying,” said DeWayne Hamilton, with therapy dog Moose beside him.
Vets gather weekly to strum on their guitars, while opening up about the challenges of the past that impact them today.
“Monday’s come around and I’m really excited,” said Justin Vaughn. “I get to see some of my comrades who smelled the same earth as I have.”
“We appreciate the fact that people can open up and speak what they feel, they don’t have to be embarrassed about it,” added Cowen.
The program gets veterans out of their homes, and into a safe and supportive setting to help them cope.
“They get to socially re-interact,” said Veteran Outreach Program Specialist Rob Freeman. “A lot of times [vets interact] first with veterans which can then help them interact with everybody else at a later point in time.”
“One of the things in the military that I miss the most is that fellowship, being with our brothers and sisters,” said war veteran Kerry Miller. “Coming here, it doesn’t matter what level we’re at on the guitar, we have that fellowship.”
Dewayne Hamilton, who plays the autoharp despite living with PTSD and Parkinson’s disease, has a piece of advice for veterans who don’t think they are capable of learning an instrument; “If you’re out there and you’ve always wanted to learn how to play, or you don’t want to be alone anymore, come to the group and see if you can play. Even if you can’t, they will work something out for you.”
Guitars for Veterans class meets Monday afternoons from 2 – 3:15 p.m. in the Vet Center located at 3616 S. Campbell Ave. Springfield, Mo.
Donations of instruments and funds make it possible to offer lessons for free, and to equip veterans with their own guitar. The grant that pays for music instructors is slated to end in 2020. A Giving Tuesday fundraiser can be found on the Music Therapy of the Ozarks Facebook page. Those interested in donating can contact Tommy Goode at (417)860-3471.