Amazing Grace. Taps. America the Beautiful. These and other patriotic songs and hymns are playing around the nation this week at memorial services and parades honoring and remembering our veterans.

In 1919 President Wilson first proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” The day originally honored veterans and remembered soldiers lost in World War I.

Today we still celebrate Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, on November 11. But for some veterans, the music associated with Veterans Day strikes a deeper chord. 

One group of veterans meets regularly at the Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic in southern New Jersey. They gather together to listen to Dr. Mary Rorro play her viola. You can watch the video below to see one session and hear some of the stories from the veterans themselves.

Dr. Rorro picks familiar songs that may evoke a specific emotion or recall a particular memory. Some are upbeat and lively while others are mournful or calming. This music therapy program helps the veterans cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The American Music Therapy Association has shown that music therapy has many positive effects for those dealing with PTSD. Music therapy can reduce anxiety and stress, positively change mood and emotional states, and enhance feelings of control, confidence, and empowerment.

“At times, music can serve as a springboard during discussion,” Dr. Rorro says. “You can feel the weight of some of the emotional state of the group.”

Many veterans are unable to find the words to talk about their experiences. Listening to music in the company of others with similar experiences allows them to better cope with feelings, emotions, and memories.

“Music gives all a chance to express ourselves, to share our souls, to share our feelings with each other.” -Participant, Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy, New York University

Most people know someone who has served or is currently serving our country. To celebrate them this Veterans Day, bring them a little music. Whether you’re a musician yourself and play them a tune, bring them to a concert, or send them a playlist, music is a great way to share a moment.

Posted on November 9, 2011
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