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Band of brothers


April 8, 2011

Patrick Nettesheim (left) and Dan Van Buskirk and their Guitars for Vets organization were featured recently on "NBC Nightly News."

As a co-founder of Guitars for Vets Inc., vice president and executive director Patrick Nettesheim sees something amazing happen when a veteran picks up a guitar.

"You have to remember that these are people who carried rifles and wore body armor, and when they leave that behind, they feel extremely vulnerable," says Nettesheim, a longtime musician and guitar teacher. "Putting that guitar in their hands which they hold quite like a rifle gives them a sense of security and an opportunity for healing."

Back in 2007, Nettesheim fielded a call from Dan Van Buskirk, a Vietnam veteran coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. Van Buskirk was seeking out guitar lessons as part of his ongoing therapy.

Van Buskirk convinced Nettesheim to help him out by performing for some of the men on the Spinal Rehabilitation floor at the Zablocki Medical Center in Milwaukee.

"Soon after that, we took a couple of guitars with us," says Nettesheim. "And we actually showed the guys how to play them."

Within a few months, Nettesheim and Van Buskirk had formed Guitars 4 Vets, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides six free private lessons and a new acoustic guitar to military veterans at VA medical and community based veteran centers.

"Its about putting the healing power of music into the hands of heroes," says

Nettesheim. "This is a program that helps veterans rediscover their joy and start to heal."

Guitars 4 Vets has given away about 1,000 guitars and 6,000 lessons to veterans, and has grown to 15 chapters in 12 states with more ready to come on board.

"The demand and need for this program far exceeds our funding right now," says Nettesheim. "Our guitar instructors are volunteers; were able to give every veteran the guitar package for under $200. Were pretty proud of that."

For more information on Guitars 4 Vets, log on to


This story ran in the March 2011 issue of: