Many veterans are turning to music as a means of finding an escape from the memories and the traumatic effects of their experiences. Justin, a 3 tour veteran of Afghanistan recovering alcoholic who suffers badly from PTSD said to me "Music is my church. It's the place I can go to find a little peace...."
The following images document 5 days spent with one community organization that encourages Veterans to use music as a means of coping with these invisible wounds, to readjust to civilian life and to heal. Music4Vets, an organization founded five years ago by Vinny Stefanelli, is based in Erie Pennsylvania.
John is a veteran of the Tet offensive in Vietnam. Guitar pick in his mouth, he adjusts his music getting ready to play with the group.
Vinny, the founder and director of music for Music4Veterans is not a veteran but dedicates much of his free time to teaching and coordinating the groups activities. The inspiration for founding Music4Veterans came through Vinny's own life experiences, and the benefits he obtained through playing the guitar.
Veterans particularly appreciate the sense of belonging and comraderie in the organization - something that many miss from their days in the Service.
Songs that are motivating and particularly meaningful to veterans are selected and learned.
While taking some candid portraits, I had the opportunity to listen to their individual stories - their hopes, ambitions, their regrets and frustrations.
As a photographer, I find it is as important to listen as it is to see.
Another Dave, who was a helipcopter door gunner in Vietnam, and now harmonica player. Suffers from PTSD. On being asked what music meant to him he replied, "I dont cry anymore, I cry through my music".
The video story with interviews and soundtrack of the veterans.