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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Guitars for Vets

Delia Chariker teaches David Harrington chord structures

Delia Chariker teaches David Harrington chord structures on the guitar as part of his music therapy.

By Laura Lythgoe
Monday, December 19, 2011


Music therapy has been embraced for years as an effective therapy to help Veteran patients cope with physical or emotional injuries. Now Charleston VAMC is expanding its program by starting a Guitars for Vets chapter offering lessons, instruments, and healing to participating patients. 

Guitars for Vets, or G4V, started in 2007 in Milwaukee, Wis. with a mission to restore the feelings of joy and purpose that can be lost after suffering trauma.  Founder Dan Van Buskirk, a Vietnam-Era Marine who has struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for decades, never thought he’d be able to learn to play guitar.  After meeting Patrick Nettesheim, a guitar instructor, and getting on the same “P.A.G.E.” (Patience, Acceptance, Gratitude, Empathy), Van Buskirk learned to play.  Through music, he captured the spirit in his soul and started to heal. He and Nettesheim shared a common inspiration that led to the establishment of Guitars for Vets.

Charleston VAMC’s Substance Abuse Coordinate Delia Chariker, who has used the power of music to help patient build confidence and learn new ways to relax, hopes G4V can broaden even more horizons.  She began the musical performing group “Veterans in Arms” with her patients in 2009. They have performed at such VA events as Welcome Home and Stand Down. She is also now serving as one of the guitar instructors for G4V. 

David Harrington recently had his first lesson with Chariker. He says learning guitar is something he’s always wanted to do.
“When I started the program I turned back to listening to music,” Harrington, a Veteran who came through VA’s homeless program and is now working at the VAMC, explained. “I hadn’t really done that in over a decade, and I’m really enjoying that and can’t wait to learn to play guitar.”

Guitars for Vets offers a more comprehensive way to support music therapies for Veteran patients by involving more instructors, offering more instruction opportunities, and providing instruments.

Currently there are 20 Veteran patients learning to play guitar thanks to the efforts of 10 G4V instructors.  Each student receives an acoustic guitar and gig-bag, a digital tuner, a strap and six lessons.  When they finish the lessons they get to keep the equipment thanks to the generosity of Cleli’a Guitar Studio in Charleston. Nationally, G4V has provided over 1,200 guitars and over 8,000 lessons to Veterans.

If you would like to learn or teach guitar at Charleston VAMC, contact Delia Chariker at 1-888-878-6884 ext..  For more information about G4V, go to


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