By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and TransitionJanuary 18, 2019
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Author Bryce Anderson once said, "I've found that no matter what life throws at me, music softens the blow." Soldiers at the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), Fort Drum, New York have had their share of challenges and are using music to help them on their road to recovery.
Soldiers at the WTU have started a weekly guitar group that provides them with many positive aides to their recovery.
"[Music] helps with stress, plus the adjustment of being around other Soldiers in a more social environment. Playing guitar shows them that they can accomplish anything if they put some time and effort into the goal," says Sgt. 1st Class Michael Stone. The 10th Mountain Division Spectrum Manager came to the WTU after being diagnosed in 2017 with a genetic based form of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body. Stone now has a defibrillator implanted into his side, but that doesn't stop him from using music to work with his fellow wounded warriors.
"I think it can certainly help with anxiety about starting something new, or starting over; especially Soldiers of a more advanced age. You are never too old to start something new," said Stone.
According to Recreational Therapist Annalise Doyle, no experience is required to join the weekly guitar club, just determination to make music and heal.
"The guitar group is a chance for Soldiers to learn a new skill in a welcoming environment," Doyle said. "Our guitar group combines people who have been playing for years with people who have attempted to play over the years or have never picked up a guitar before."
Song ideas are welcome and all music genres are explored by the guitar group. Stone also encourages Soldiers attending the group to bring their patience and a sense of humor.
"Occasionally someone will drop a [guitar] pick into the body of the guitar, which is funny because we bring it up on a regular basis when it happens, and it happens to everyone. It is particularly funny watching someone try to retrieve it," Stone said. "It can get frustrating though, but the environment is always supportive and almost everyone who plays has experienced it at least once. This actually happened to me this last week and I've been playing for almost 30 years," he added.
The group meets every Tuesday at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center and uses guitars donated by Soldiers who are leaving the group or they share one. Of course, there is always the option to bring your own.