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Guitars for vets who help heal wounds from the past with the power of music

Muddy Boyle smiles as he rattles a shiny chrome resonator with a red tag dangling from its base.

“When I saw the tag that said all proceeds go to”Guitars for vetsI knew I had to have it,” he said.

Buying isn’t just a shiny new six-string. It’s a tribute to the guitar program he says saved his life.

The Marine returned home to DeKalb with severe post-traumatic stress disorder after serving as an aircrew commander for nearly a decade.

“In 2015, I decided that I didn’t want to live anymore,” he said.

His suicide attempt ended in a hospital bed. It was there that one of the Marines urged Boyle to finally get help.

That help came in the form of a guitar.

While recovering at the Hines VA Hospital, Boyle discovered a program called Guitars for Vets. Everyone who takes 10 free guitar lessons will get their own guitar to take home with them.

Bernie Kampf, one of the lead volunteer instructors, has known the healing power of music since Khe Sanh’s time.

“Having a guitar to play in our bunker was our lifesaver. It brought a lot of peace and happiness,” Kampf said.

It was that revelation that led Kampf to volunteer to teach guitar to fellow vets every week. Boyle was one of his first students.

“I feel like a proud dad,” he said. “Seriously, it’s one of the most rewarding things to help these vets find their way to healing through music. Plus we know it works!”

A Guitars for Vets study found a 21 percent improvement in PTSD symptoms and a nearly 30 percent reduction in depression after learning to play the guitar.

“It’s indescribable for people like me to tell you what it’s like to be able to play a pure chord. It was life-changing,” Boyle said.

That’s why Boyle and his friend Kampf went to Midlothian Music in Orland Park to buy a shiny new guitar with a red tag.

“This is my way of giving back to a music store that has done so much for vets like me,” he said.

Midlothian Music has donated more than 60 guitars to a program at Hines VA Hospital.

“My father was a veteran. It made perfect sense for us to use our store to thank these guys for the years they spent protecting our country,” said owner John Lekavich. “As a thank you, we’re giving them a guitar, tuner, case and everything else they need.”

All proceeds from the sale of the signature red tag guitars go directly to Guitars for Vets.

“It’s not just a guitar to me anymore,” Boyle said. “This piece of wood and steel changed my life.”


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