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Guitar Heroes Come To Parkersburg

Most of the Veterans I’ve talked to over the years haven’t been a fan of traditional treatment for PTSD. Many these Vets have issues because doctors simply prescribe medication and send them on their way. Too often a Veteran has told me that this just doesn’t work. Traditional medication that is prescribed for mental health has too many side effects they say. Up until the past few years, I couldn’t really relate. However, I was once prescribed Cymbalta for depression and I couldn’t recognize the person I became either. On that drug my blood pressure spiked to a level that was in the stroke range, I stopped sleeping completely, and I lost about 30 pounds in two weeks because I only ate once every 3-4 days. While that last side effect was pretty awesome, I’m too big a fan of sleep and not having a stroke to keep taking Cymbalta. I eventually found a medicine that worked, but I also realize that medicine isn’t the answer for everyone, or it’s not the only answer. In the past, I’ve found that a lot of Vets benefit from alternative treatment for PTSD. I’ve discussed Yoga, Motorcycle Clubs, and even modern Veteran’s Organizations that focus on community service. However, a new program has entered the Mid-Ohio Valley, and its music to my ears.

I’m not musically inclined. The only instrument I can play is the stereo, and as mine is usually playing something by Katy Perry, most will argue that I don’t play it very well. Regardless of that criticism, I’ve always been jealous of those who can play an instrument. Learning to play something as complex as the guitar takes time, money and resources. Individuals who want to learn this discipline later in life don’t always have access to those resources. However, a national program aimed at helping Veterans with PTSD helps to rid those obstacles for Vets wanting to learn this new skill. Since 2007 Guitars4Vets has helped thousands of Veterans learn to play the guitar.

Guitars4Vets expanded quickly over the past decade. There are now 66 chapters across the nation. Here in West Virginia, we have a chapter in Clarksburg. Recently the program expanded to include a subchapter in Parkersburg, WV. Recently I spoke to one of the instructors, Larry Smith, who gave me a lot of insight about the program. Larry said that the program is 10 weeks long. The Veteran students are provided with teaching guitars. Each instructor works with two students to teach them the basics. After the 10-week program ends, each Veteran is provided with a guitar pack. It includes a new guitar, tuner, strap, picks, extra strings, and much more.

Larry was quick to point out that this program is very hands on, but that even a Veteran with no previous musical experience would be able to join the program and can guitar on their own by the end of the program.  You may not be able to open for Guns and Roses, but you’ll know how to play music on your own. The idea is for the Veteran to expand his or her skills after the class ends.

While the program is new to the area, it’s already garnered a lot of attention. Currently, there are 4 Veterans participating here with an additional 10 Veterans waiting to participate. Larry explained that the Parkersburg detachment is currently in need of additional Volunteer Instructors. With the 2 to 1 ratio, the need for instructors is a priority. While Larry is a Veteran, he mentioned to me that a volunteer does not have to be a Veteran to participate. They just need to have an ability to play guitar. In addition to instructors, the Parkersburg chapter is looking for donations to provide the guitar kits to the Veterans at the end of the program.

In the Parkersburg, WV area, CA House Music and Specialty Traders are preferred vendors. Specialty Traders and CA House can accept donations for the program. If you’d like to volunteer, you can contact chapter coordinator Billy Trivett. His phone number is 540-355-5461. For more info about Guitars4Vets, click here. To learn more about PTSD check out our archive.

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