Thursday, June 28, 2012

What Has Six Strings and An Enormous Heart?

A few weeks ago I had the great honor of being part of Tertulia, this super awesome event that happens every few months at the Continental Club Gallery. The hosts bring together writers and musicians and we each perform one piece. The combined effect is just amazing, plus you get to discover people you maybe didn't know about before. Toward that end, I got to hear the wonderful singer-songwriter, Dustin Welch. In addition to being moved by his song skills, something Dustin said went directly to my heart and stuck there. He is part of this amazing program called Soldiers and Songs, a group that brings together returning vets and singer-songwriters. The latter help the former learn to play instruments and write songs. Not only does this literally give them a voice, it is also particularly helpful for those with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. As someone who has suffered from PTSD for a long time, and who has found healing through writing and comfort in song, I immediately understood the mission of Dustin & company. The outlet they are providing-- and the program is growing chapters across the country-- is incredible. It's also incredibly necessary. 

According to the US Department of Veterans' Affairs, experts believe that up to 20% of returning vets suffer from PTSD. That's not a number that exists in a vacuum. Consider the ripple effect-- the family and community of each PTSD sufferer also pays a steep price. (I know this from my own life, not just the stats.) Compounding the problems sufferers face is how hard it is for some to admit to it, how hard it can be to get a diagnosis (PTSD is sometimes dismissed because you can't always see, on the surface, the devastation, the way you can see how limbs have been blown away by IEDs), and-- even when a diagnosis is given-- how impossible it can be to get help. Also, consider the grim news that soldier suicides are at an all-time high.

Help a soldier out-- please donate some of these. Info on how is below.

Growing complacent during two protracted wars fought far away has become too easy. When we don't see the devastation up close it's entirely possible to forget about it. But Dustin Welch hasn't forgotten. He is staking out the Aftermath Trenches with an enormous heart and six strings, demonstrating compassion and fearlessness. As the President of the Office of Good Deeds, I am beyond humbled by his service.

So now I'm asking you to help him out. First and foremost, the group needs guitars. Have you got one you can donate? You can email me if you do, and I'll connect you directly with Dustin. Other instruments are also welcome. If you don't have an instrument but you do want to help, you can kick in a few bucks by going to this link or let me know and I'll also connect you with Dustin regarding financial donations. Five bucks, ten bucks-- it all helps.

For more information about the program check out Voices of a Grateful Nation. You can also listen to the story John Burnett reported about the program for NPR.

Dustin-- THANK YOU! 

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