In the months that I’ve been playing my guitar for the Vets at the Denver VA hospital, I’ve been treated to a whole gamut of stress results among those I’ve been able to work with. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes not so much. Sometimes it takes a little time. After they’ve had a while to get used to you, it seems that even negative personalities soften a little and sometimes conversations or music relationships evolve that are quite rewarding. What comes home to you in a big way is the worth and worthiness of these people who in reality are just somebody’s kids like yours, mine or anyone else’s who have just received a heapin’ helpin’ of some not very good stuff!
Sometimes, with the right kind of love, care, and attention, these people can calm the sweats and fears and find a place deep down in their psyche to put the nightmares away for good. Hopefully they’ll be replaced with love and warmth so they can find a way to heal and bring the calm and normalcy into their lives they all sorely need.
One of those ways, believe it or not, is music. Not just to listen to or sing along with, but to be involved in as a player. Every week when I’m sitting there by the coffee kiosk, I’ll notice someone watching extra closely and you know it wont be long before they start a conversation about music and some song or some singer and “How do you play that” or “How did they play so and so?”
That’s when friendships begin and this week, as we close in on Christmas, I have to look back at all the wonderful gifts I’ve been given in the form of these Vets who sometimes want nothing more from you than a warm smile, a couple of tunes and the chance to kick things around and just be their friend.
I’m not trying to say this as some kind of psychiatric guru who suddenly has the keys to Ft. Knox as a healer, I’m simply addressing it as someone who needs friends and friendship just as much as these folks do, and music (especially guitar music) is the bridge that helps us cover the gap.
The electric guitar first showed up on bandstands 75 years ago when Benny Goodman hired Charlie Christian and it’s been delivering dreams and boosting spirits to millions ever since. I’m absolutely sure that a good many young men and women who feel their lives are barely worth living turn to this instrument to find solace when they’re down to the bottom and every other door in their lives seems closed.
The awful, horrifying statistic that I heard about this week is that 22 PTSD Veterans per day are committing suicide! That is a fact that turns your stomach upside down and what makes it even worse is that retiring republican senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma voted no on the 22 million dollar Clay Hunt suicide prevention bill because it was too expensive! Too expensive? We spent over 80 million dollars during the last administration on a couple of guys so that they could teach us torture techniques and to my knowledge no republican raised a whisper about that? Never in my lifetime did I ever believe you could put a ceiling price on saving lives and now you tell me they’re not worth it and 22 million to prevent PTSD suicide is too much?
These days, the game of life deals us a lot of cards that we can’t do anything about. No more, no less. You play the hand you’re dealt and don’t bitch about the outcome. There are however, certain things we can change if we work at it and that is politics and those we elect to represent us. Politicians are like everyone else. They’ll try to calm down the constituents who are yelling the loudest! So everybody, let’s get out there and start yelling! Use mail, phone, laptop and any other communication form you can think of to get their attention. Don’t just yell at your life partner, pick your favorite (or not so favorite) politician and start in. They’ll get the message! We just have to make sure they hear it!
Send me your comments and critiques. I’ll be sure to read them all and use them if I can.
Have a great Christmas Holiday everbody.