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Guitars For Vets celebrates eight years of transforming local veterans' lives

Posted at 7:05 PM, Mar 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-06 05:35:50-05

BELLEVUE, Neb. (KMTV) — The Guitars For Vets Nebraska chapter was founded in 2016 by Taylor Ullom. In that time the organization has touched the lives of more than 150 veterans.

  • “We do more than just guitar lessons. We are restoring passion, and purpose, and community in so many veterans’ lives.”
  • The chapter will celebrate its eight year anniversary with'Guitars For Vets Country Music Night' Friday, March 8 from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Nebraska Brewing Company.
  • The program is always looking for more volunteers and donations. You can reach them by clicking here.


“Well, this program truly transformed my life.”

In 2021 I visited Bellevue University’s Military Veteran Services Center to learn about Guitars For Vets – an organization that gets guitars in the hands of our veterans and teaches them how to play.

Something that has been proven to help our American heroes struggling with PTSD.

I came back out here this week to check in with the Nebraska chapter – set to celebrate its eight-year anniversary.

“I would never have guessed what this was going to become. The impact that it would have, the energy it would carry in our community,” Guitars For Vets Nebraska Chapter Founder, and now National Development Director for the organization, Taylor Ullom said.

Nebraska Chapter Coordinator and GFV Instructor Jim Hoy added, “We just graduated our 146th student and we’re going to graduate two more this week, one Friday and one Saturday.”

And there’s 13 more in the program right now, which consists of ten individual lessons for each veteran, ending with a graduation ceremony and free guitar.

Throw in weekly and monthly jam sessions where graduates of the program return to play and it’s easy to see this group is rocking.

But it goes so much further than that.

“We do more than just guitar lessons,” Ullom said. “We are restoring passion, and purpose, and community in so many veterans’ lives.”

The graduates I spoke with sang the same tune.

“It’s not just music to me, it’s an escape. It’s therapy,” Graduate and Air Force Veteran Dustin Feliciano said.

“Veterans need people who are happy to take them out of those ruts, out of the isolation in their houses, or dealing with PTSD and struggles with anxiety. That’s what this is for.”

Another graduate, and Air Force veteran, Ashlea Rodriguez added, “It brought community to my life. As veterans we’re dealing with chronic pain, finding our place in the workforce, finding our community – you can find that a lot easier when you’re carrying around a pretty cool guitar.”

Hoy has been giving lessons through the program since 2017.

“I think if you talk to our instructors you will find, to a person, they will say they are probably getting more out of it that the student, and it’s very gratifying.”

To think it could have never been.

“I almost didn't start the chapter because I didn’t think I'd be good enough,” Ullom said. "So, every time somebody graduates, I have to fight tears, and sometimes I don't fight them well, because I think -- what would have happened if I didn't click that button? Where would this person’s life be?”

“To have Guitars For Vets to be able to give me that dream, you know, it’s something that can never be repaid,” Feliciano said.

This Friday the chapter will celebrate eight years in our community where several graduates will perform for the first time

“I’m tickled as heck to be a part of it,” Graduate and Air Force Veteran Billie Cooper told me. “Because I think Taylor and Guitars For Veterans, and people like Jim, so deserve to be showcased through what other folks have become able to do.”

Ullom added, “The program just continues to grow and sometimes you just got to stop and celebrate how far you’ve come, and that’s what we hope to do this weekend.”

Guitars For Vets Country Music Night celebration is Friday, March 8, at veteran-owned Nebraska Brewing Company from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.

It is free to the public and is family friendly.

There will be live music all evening, along with a silent auction and a graduation ceremony for its newest members.

For more information on the event, click here.