Guitars for Vets puts healing power of music in hands of heroes

These music lessons are about much more than learning guitar. They're putting the healing power of music in the hands of heroes. (WKRC)

These music lessons are about much more than learning guitar. They're putting the healing power of music in the hands of heroes. (WKRC)

by Meghan Mongillo, WKRC
Friday, March 8th 2019

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - These music lessons are about much more than learning guitar. They're putting the healing power of music in the hands of heroes.

Jimmy Walton started playing guitar when he was 70. The Air Force veteran is a lifelong musician but had never picked up a guitar until four years ago when he signed up for lessons because of mental struggles from his time at war. 

Walton said, “It’s helped to slow me down and move forward on a continuous basis as opposed to being so frantic and looking over my shoulder and that sort of thing. And so, it’s helped me a great deal psychologically and physically.”

Walton suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re finding comfort behind the wood and strings of a guitar.

The classes are held at the VA hospital, but they're put on by local volunteers who joined with the national organization Guitars for Vets

“It breaks that social isolation, and that’s one of the key things. As a disabled veteran with PTSD, I know that. I know what that's like," said Richard Hutchinson. 

Hutchinson runs the Cincinnati chapter, which started in 2012. He says close to 40 men and women who’ve served our country have signed up to learn guitar.

Bruce Kircher is one of the teachers. 

“People can do what they can, say, 'Wow I don’t have to wait for weeks and months before I can play something.' So we skip "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and we go right into some Bob Dylan,” said Kircher.

For lessons, the vets get a loaner guitar, but when they complete the 10-week program and graduate, they get a brand new one. Guitars for Vets has some graduates that have taken the show on the road.

Walton writes his own songs and performs around the Tri-State in a veteran band that has a yearly gig at the Cincy Blues Fest. 

“Every year at Sawyer Point, we do that. That was the first time I walked out on stage and there were all these people out there, but it was cool. I fed on the people, so that was good,” he said. 

Walton and the other service members are helping to shine a spotlight on dealing with and healing from PTSD.

One of the fundraisers that helps pay for the veterans' guitars is this weekend. The event is called "Lee J's Thing," and it's happening Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Heid's Lanes in White Oak.


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