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VFW Magazine March 2017 : Page 29

“They were elated by the guitars,” Nettesheim said. “It became evident rather quickly that we needed to teach them how to play. And that’s how Guitars for Vets was born.” Lessons are given primarily at VA hospitals or community-based outpatient clinics. Instructors like Williams volunteer to teach the classes. “Group sessions, even if everyone sounds awful, it’s still great because everyone is laughing,” Nettesheim said. “It helps open windows of serenity.” Photo by lauren goldman/vfw Photo courtesy of guitars for vets ABOVE: Guitars for Vets Executive co-founder Patrick Nettesheim rocks out at a show in 2016. The nonprofit program offers free guitar instruction to disabled vets. At the end of the 10-week session, participants are given a free guitar. With Vietnam vet Dan Van Buskirk, Nettesheim started Guitars for Vets in 2007. LEFT: Iraq vet Chris Longdon plays alongside Vietnam veteran Kelly Johnson at the Guitars for Vets Columbia, Mo., chapter. Classes are held at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital. Longdon started the chapter after he was diagnosed with PTSD and realized the healing value of playing his guitar. Johnson, who bought his first guitar at age 16, said he enjoys playing, especially at home where it fills a “lonely void.” ‘a BETTER PlacE’ After Chris Longdon was diagnosed with PTSD in 2011, he found such serenity in his guitar. “I found that playing the guitar took me to a better place,” said Longdon, who served with the Marines’ 1st Medical Battalion in Iraq for seven months in 2008. “I tried to deal with all of this on my own, but that didn’t work out so well.” Longdon taught himself the basics of guitar playing, but once he was in the military, he never played. When he was dis-charged and struggling, he would drink and play his guitar. Eventually he slowed down on the drinking and replaced it with guitar playing. “I realized I could play a lot better when I wasn’t drinking,” he joked. He heard about Guitars for Vets and knew he wanted to get involved. There was no chapter in the state of Missouri, which is where Longdon lives. “I got one started at the VA in Columbia,” he said. “It was the MARCH 2017   • WWW.VFW.ORG • 29

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