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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Guitars for Vets Celebrates First Graduate

Guitars For Vets

Guitars For Vets combines therapy and music to help treat emotional distress in Veteran patients.

By Laura Valentine
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Music is “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color,” according to   One definition of therapy is, “any act, hobby, task, program, etc., that relieves tension.” 

Guitars For Vets is one example of how Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is combining the two to help Veterans recovering from emotional distress.

Vietnam Veteran, Mike Ferrero, U.S. Army, is the first graduate of the Guitars for Vets (G4V) program at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.  Learning to play guitar is something he always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity. 

 “I was very depressed before I started playing.  Now I have more energy and the guitar helps me think about something positive in my life,” Ferrero said about his new found talent.

Delia Chariker, Readjustment Counseling Therapist for the Charleston Vet Center, started G4V at the medical center in 2011.
 “It’s amazing how much a Veteran will open up and start growing when you put an instrument in his or her hands,” said Chariker. 

G4V was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2007 by a Vietnam-Era Veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to help fellow Veterans struggling with emotional distress by providing a creative tool to express their feelings.

“Instead of being bored, I play my guitar,” said Ferrero.  “Playing guitar has helped clear my mind of old burdens.”  
Each Veteran enrolled in the program receives ten guitar lessons, an acoustic guitar with a case, plus a digital tuner and strap for the guitar.  The main theme of this program is keeping the Veteran and instructor on the same page through Patience, Acceptance, Gratitude and Empathy. 

“But there are strings attached,” said Chariker.

Each Veteran must sign an agreement stating they will complete all six lessons.  Only upon completion of the sixth class can they take ownership of the guitar and its accessories. 

“We’d love to let all of our Veterans take an instrument home, especially a guitar, but we rely exclusively on the generosity of donations to fund this program,” Chariker said.

For more information about Guitars For Vets, visit or stop by the Charleston Vet Center to find out about upcoming lessons. 



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