The instructors of a therapeutic Fort Campbell program say learning and playing an instrument presents an obstacle wounded warriors can overcome. They say it's a way they're helping soldiers heal themselves.
A live rendition of Sweet Home Alabama rang out from a room at Fort Campbell on Thursday. Eight weeks ago, most of the soldiers in the song had never played a chord, never read a note on sheet music, and had never known what it was like to be part of a band. Thursday, they were just ready to jam live and unplugged.
"It's a hopeful thing," said SFC Louis Crocker of Fort Campbell. "It gives people hope."
Active in the Army for 27 years, Crocker is one of the injured soldiers in a Fort Campbell program called SOAR, Sounds of Acoustic Recovery.
"My last deployment, we came back in July of 2010," said Crocker. "I was home three hours from Iraq and then I had a stroke, a pretty good one. It was caused from combatives. As time went on, everything started going downhill. My passions have always been my family. It was God, family, then work. I lost all of those interests. I even tried hitting myself in the head. Can I fix my head? No, it didn't happen. It just got worse.
Through the Warrior Transition Battalion, Crocker heard about SOAR, a program created by soldiers to teach wounded warriors to play instruments.
"It's been therapeutic," said Crocker. "It's getting my brain to work, getting my head working with my hands."
"Music can relieve a lot of the mental stress and mental anguish that a lot of these soldiers may have," said Sgt. Lee Lamb, one of the SOAR instructors.
"I was involved in a rollover while in Afghanistan, which caused some spinal injuries," said Sgt. Bryan Flanery. "My left hand doesn't work all that well."
"Playing guitar or piano is an opportunity to strengthen their fingers and hands," said Lamb.
Instructors for the class are with the 101st Division Band. As the band performed Thursday, the soldiers in the class listened and smiled, hoping to someday play like them.
"It gives you something to look forward to, it gives you something to strive for," said Flanery.
As for Crocker, he said his passions are returning day by day, watching others take on their obstacles around him and playing with a determined band he can call family.
"When we get in those dark holes, what pulls us out of it?" asked Crocker. "It's some kind of light. We have courses in life, adversities that we go through. Either we beat it or it beats us. It's about odds. I'm sure I'll beat it. I've beat all odds before. I'm not going to just waste away. I'm not going to give up."
If you know a soldier in the Wounded Warrior Battalion who might be interested in SOAR, they can become part of the program by asking their caseworker.
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