ABC7 Salutes Rock for Vets, part of nonprofit that helps disabled veterans through music

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Saturday, December 9, 2017
ABC7 Salutes Rock for Vets, band that helps disabled veterans
The men and women of "Rock for Vets" have a mission: they've dedicated themselves to making life better for disabled veterans.

The men and women of "Rock for Vets" have a mission: they've dedicated themselves to making life better for disabled veterans.

Their group, which is based in Long Beach, is part of a larger organization called The Rock Club: Music is the Remedy .

"We introduce music to these veterans as a form of healing for them. A lot of them are suffering from PTSD", said Frank McIlquham, who is the group's executive director.

The program is clearly working. One veteran lived through the Vietnam War, but got addicted to meth after he returned. He had a difficult time dealing with the effects of PTSD.

Charles Rick Roche has been clean for years now and is proud that he stepped up to the plate to play bass guitar in the band.

"It has really helped me a lot. In the last seven years, I think I've come a long way with that -- also my personal growth," Roche said.

Another band member, Carolyn Davies, agrees that being in the group has a lot of benefits.

"It's very helpful because I get to do the stuff I love. That's singing, meeting new people and having a little exposure to my talents," she said.

Another member of the band, Janette Williams, said she never thought she'd get to perform on stage.

"I've always wanted to be on stage," she said. "I never thought that would happen, until Frank cam. And it's really uplifting. It's helped me a lot with my self-esteem," she added.

As the band rehearses, it's clear to see the respect band members have for each other on stage.

"It gives me this sense of teamwork and camaraderie and sisterhood and brotherhood and bonding that I had in the military," Barbara Stransky said.

The band's head coach is a Vietnam vet and a professional musician who has performed all over the world. Jerry Salas told the story of a man who found his program when he was near suicide.

"A few months later, his wife came up to me and said, 'thank you for giving my husband back to me.' And I didn't realize the impact the program was having on certain people," he said.

So far, Rock for Vets has helped nearly 200 veterans who suffer from PTSD, spinal cord injuries and brain injuries. They've also worked with blind vets in rehab who are learning to play a musical instrument.

Besides the other benefits, many veterans said the program has made them more confident and helped in the transition back to life as civilians.