Veterans find healing through guitar lessons at Long Beach VA

Through Guitars 4 Vets, military veterans come together to work through built-up emotions by learning how to play the guitar.

Amanda Palacios Image
Monday, May 20, 2024
Veterans find healing through guitar lessons at Long Beach VA
At the VA in Long Beach, veterans find a therapeutic escape through Guitars 4 Vets, a nonprofit program offering music lessons to help alleviate PTSD.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Once a week, a unique gathering takes place at the VA in Long Beach. Military veterans, each carrying the weight of their own experiences, come together to strum away some of their stress by getting together and learning how to play the guitar.

It's all part of the nonprofit organization, Guitars 4 Vets, which aims to help alleviate the challenges of PTSD that many veterans face.

"Our mission is we give guitar lessons to veterans suffering through PTSD or other invisible wounds. It's a 10-week program or 10-session program. Every veteran who graduates receives a free guitar courtesy of Guitars 4 Vets," said Ming Chen, Long Beach chapter coordinator for Guitars 4 Vets.

Chen is an Army veteran who grew up playing the guitar and is now the chapter coordinator of the program in Long Beach. This chapter is just one of 130 dedicated to helping veterans through music.

"This program has just been great for you know, blending my passion for music and paying it forward helping my fellow veterans and sharing my passion with them," Chen said.

"I watch that change, you know, where they just reach out and connect to each other," said Matthew Owenby, Victorville chapter coordinator for Guitars 4 vets.

For veterans grappling with the stress of their wartime experiences playing the guitar has become more than just a hobby, it's become a therapeutic escape.

"The guitar is some way to refocus that energy and just you know, be more alive," said Marine veteran Erik Duane.

"It keeps my brain on its toes. My dexterity is a lot better because of it," said Army veteran Dennis Peel.

As Guitars 4 Vets continues to expand its reach, the organization says it's more than a music program; it's a lifeline for veterans

"If I can help or this program can help take their mind off of whatever struggles they're dealing with for an hour, it's just great," Chen said.

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