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Veterans learn guitar to cope with PTSD, depression

Readjusting to civilian life after military service is a challenge most people cannot fully appreciate.  The horrors of war can haunt veterans for years -- or even decades -- after being discharged.

That's why one organization is helping local vets make the transition easier, and it uses an unexpected tool -- guitar lessons.

Founded in 2007, Guitars for Vets offers free music lessons at the VA Medical Center.  After being referred to the program, veterans receive 10 free, private lessons.  Then, if they stick with it, they are rewarded with a free guitar and the equipment needed to enjoy the instrument at home.

"The music lets them emote without speaking any words," said co-founder Patrick Nettesheim.  "That's a very important thing, especially if you've suffered trauma that is very difficult to talk about."

Over the last seven years, the nonprofit organization has grown quickly.  What started as one chapter in Milwaukee has now spread to more than 20 states and roughly 45 local chapters across the country.

"We cannot measure how many lives this will positively enrich," Nettesheim said.

Guitars for Vets is always looking for donations of gently used guitars for the veterans to use during lessons and practice.

In addition to guitars, the organization needs financial support to continue its mission.  It will be hosting a fundraiser at the Harley Davidson Museum on Nov. 15.  Nettesheim said he hopes to raise $50,000 for the nonprofit at the event, dubbed "Rock the Rumble."  Find ticket information here.

To hear our interview with Nettesheim, click the podcast player above.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee