Inside the Gates: 'Creative Forces'
The Creative Forces program focuses on the arts to help military personnel heal from the complex wounds of recent wars.
In April of 2017, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) was selected as one of the programs expansion sites. JBER's music therapy program has grown to 50 patients since starting last summer.
Therapy sessions are offered both in groups and one-on-one to help treat issues such as memory loss, fine motor skills and word recall-- to help military personnel and veterans return to their homes and families whole.
It also prepares them to be mentally and emotionally ready for whatever awaits them after their time of service ends.
"I had a diving accident that really rocked my world," Air Guard Staff Sergeant Eivind Brendtro said. "It pretty much changed my world forever. I was really fortunate to get into the music program."
Brendtro said he was approached about the program and was told he would be a great candidate.
"I told them I'll give it a try," Brendtro said. "I said I have no music background so I'm not sure if you'll really want me. I can't even sing."
On Brendtro's first day, he recalls being asked what instrument he'd like to play.
"I said, 'Really? An instrument'", Brendtro said. "I looked around the room and knew there was no way I was going to learn to play something complicated like a guitar or piano."
Brendtro looked around the room and in the corner, he noticed a small four-string ukulele.
"I said, what about that?" Brendtro said. "So, I started playing that, learned a few chords and started liking it and then realized this is for me."
The music therapy has helped Brendtro sort out all the clutter he's had in his mind.
"To explain it, think of your computer," Brendtro said. "With all these different windows open and all of the sudden you open too many windows. The computer than just can not process quick enough anymore. So, some of your windows start dropping out. So, I was actually having auditory drop out and certain sounds would disappear. I could still hear but not everything. I found the more items that got added in, the worse it got."
Sean Young, a Staff Sergeant with the U.S. Army also found order in his life through the music therapy program.
"When I started in the program, they asked me what instrument I wanted to play," Young said. "I said, 'I didn't know'. I played trumpet in high school. I really wanted to get into drums and guitar. I mean, what little kid doesn't want to be a rock star. So, I picked up a guitar and started playing and one day I was approached to play the drums. I jumped on the drums and felt an instant connection to it."
Before the program, Young says he would forget things because of the trauma he'd been through.
"I've been deployed four times, I've been in close proximities to explosions," Young said. "The closest one was from me to the chair. My truck has been blown up a few times and I've had bad jumps out of airplanes. I couldn't put my keys down, walk away and then remember where I put them. That was for everything. Like, I lost things that are the easiest things to remember but through music therapy, it's helped me remember everything."
Brendtro also feels the therapy has helped him in ways he never dreamed possible.
"It's amazing," he said. "I didn't think my brain had all this. Using music therapy, I think it unlocked the other side of my brain. I was amazed not only on the music side, but also being able to write poems and doing some art therapy with the Wounded Warriors, I was shocked at what I was able to create."
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