Music helps these Vietnam veterans heal old war wounds

Posted at 3:01 PM, Oct 15, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. -- When these musicians gather to jam they’re not rehearsing for a gig and they don’t play before an cheering audience. But listen closely you may just hear the sweet sounds of healing. This is a music class where the students are well beyond high school age.

"I’m looking forward to Fridays and looking forward to being with the guys," Chastain King said.

The men in this class are learning the basics of guitar, but these lessons go much deeper than sheet music.

"These are my brothers. I just love them. We feed off of each other," Carrington Parker Jr said.

It’s called Guitars for Veterans, a national non-profit. Richmond chapter founder Peg Andrae said the music provides therapy for those who served.

"It lifts them up. You can see it in their faces. They smile. They are having fun with one another. They forget about all of the rest of it," Andrae said.

The trio in this class meet each Friday morning at McGuire Veterans Medical Center. All three Viet Nam veterans in this class still live with physical and emotional scars nearly 50 years after going overseas.

"I still have thoughts about it. It comes," Parker Jr. said. "But the group we have helps with my spiritual belief."

Since the budding musicians started playing together in May each man said the pain lessens with each passing song.

"I don’t get so clinically depressed. I don’t think about troubles," King said. "Everything just floats away on the guitar strings."

Instructor and retired professional jazz musician John Chamberlin has been volunteering with GFV for two years.

"It is a pleasure to work with these folks. They are fine individuals," Chamberlin said. "I appreciate what they’ve done for our country. The sacrifices that they’ve made."

The budding musicians in this class admit they’ve got a long way to go to play like BB King or Stevie Ray Vaughn, but to these veterans music has never sounded sweeter especially on Friday mornings.

"It is like getting up Christmas morning you know you’re going to have some fun," King said. "It is pretty soothing having my guitar with me. It is like having another friend."

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