Guitars for Vets helping to heal wounds from the past through the power of music


Muddy Boyle smiles as he strums the shiny chrome resonator with the red tag swinging from the base.

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

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

The Marine returned home to Dekalb with severe PTSD after serving nearly a decade as an aircraft crew chief.

“In 2015, I decided I didn’t want to be alive any longer,” he said.

His suicide attempt ended in a hospital bed. It was there that a fellow Marine encouraged Boyle to finally get some help.

That help came in the form of a guitar.

While recovering at Hines VA Hospital, Boyle discovered a program called Guitars for Vets. Anyone who completes the 10 free guitar lessons, gets their own guitar to take home.

One of the lead volunteer instructors, Bernie Kamph knows the healing power of music, dating back to his time in Khe Sanh.

“Having a guitar to play in our bunker ended up being our savior. It just brought a lot of peace and happiness,” Kamph said.

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

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

A research study of Guitars for Vets showed a 21 percent improvement in PTSD symptoms and a nearly 30 percent decrease in depression after learning to play a guitar.

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

Which is why Boyle made the drive to Midlothian Music in Orland Park with his friend Kamph to buy the shiny new guitar with the red tag.

“It’s my way of giving back to the music shop that has done so much for vets like me,” he said.

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

“My father was a veteran. It made perfect sense for us to use our shop to help give back and thank these guys for the years spent defending our country,” owner John Lekavich said. “We give them a guitar, a tuner, a case and anything else they need as our thank you.”

All proceeds from guitars sold with the signature red tags, goes directly to Guitars for Vets.

“To me it’s no longer, just a guitar,” Boyle said. “This piece of wood and steel has changed my life.”

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