MILTON — Mark Harris served in the United States Marine Corps for eight years. He completed one tour in Al Asad Iraq. When he returned he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Learning to play guitar has changed his life and he wants to share the skill with other veterans.
"Twenty two veterans commit suicide every day because they suffer from PTSD," Harris said.
By definition, PTSD is a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid memories of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.
The condition can afflict anyone that experiences or sees a life-threatening event like a natural disaster, a car accident, sexual assault or — the prevailing reason for veterans — combat.
"The main point of Guitars for Vets is that we get the vets out of the house, jamming and talking to other vets," Harris said.
Talking and sharing leads to healing, Harris said. Harris still sees a counselor for his PTSD and he is an accomplished guitarist.
Harris works at A Joyful Noise, at 6377 Highway 90 in Milton, and is now a representative for Guitars for Vets. The 2nd Annual Guitars for Vets Benefit Concert will take place at 7 p.m. Nov. 3, at Whiskey Runners Saloon in Pensacola. The concert will feature singer-songwriters performing and jamming together through the night. There is a Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster raffle at 9:30 p.m. Tickets for the concert are $15; you can purchase them in advance at A Joyful Noise or at Whiskey Runners. Suggested donation for the raffle is $5.
Jenna Scott from Cat Country 98.7 radio will be master of ceremonies for the event.
The goal of the concert this year is to raise $10,000 for the Guitars for Vets program. That money is used to buy new guitars for veterans once they complete their 10-week guitar lessons program. It costs about $200 to equip each veteran with a guitar, Harris said. Part of the program involves accepting used guitars, which are repaired then used as practice instruments for veterans. A Joyful Noise is accepting those donations at the store.
There are Guitars for Vets chapters in Milton and Pensacola Harris said. The Milton chapter has guitar lessons every Tuesday at the Imogene Theater at 10 a.m. The Pensacola chapter meets at the VA Hospital on Wednesday's at noon.
Visit www.guitars4vets.org for more information.
"If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD, call someone you can talk to," Harris said. ''The first couple of years were a struggle. Music literally saved my life. It saves lives; it really does."