PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A new Valley music therapy program is helping military veterans cope with PTSD.
"Instruments 4 Success" provides veterans with free musical instruments like guitars, drums and keyboards and music lessons.
The program is offered through the local nonprofit Honor House. Honor House was created to help veterans transition from service to civilian life.
U.S. Army veteran Brett Cullen of Peoria has been part of the program for about two months and goes to lessons at least twice a week.
The 49-year-old used to play guitar back in his teens but has forgotten how to play. Not because it's been so long, but because he says memory loss is one of the symptoms of his PTSD.
"I haven't had a life in these last eight years," he explained. "I have been struggling with some of the physical effects that I still have and the psychological effects."
Cullen served four years in the Army. He returned home from a deployment to Iraq in 2011.
"It's not just one even. It's a series of traumas," he said. "You try to pretend you're fully functional and you aren't."
"I was in several psychiatric hospitals," he recalled. "I had a suicide attempt about a month after I came out of Iraq."
He tried all sorts of therapies, but music therapy seemed to work best. Just ask his wife, Dawn. They've been married 23 years.
"It was incredibly difficult," said Dawn. "The person I gave in good faith to the U.S. is not the same individual that I got back."
"Because through this program, his PTSD symptoms are not as severe as what they were," she added.
She said the program has saved his life, his marriage and the relationship with his kids.
"To not have to worry about what I'm going to walk into today when I come in from work is a huge relief," she said. "I don't have to worry about him harming himself every day, about things getting broken or damaged because he's having a PTSD episode."
"I see him no longer existing and sitting in the dark. He's now living and he's in the light," she described.
Research has found teaching veterans how to play music can relieve symptoms of PTSD.
Now Brett is getting ready to play for Instruments 4 Success' first show, instrument drive and fundraiser.
It’s Saturday, April 6 at the Disabled American Veterans banquet hall at 8447 N. 61st Ave in Glendale.
The family-friendly show is free, but Instruments 4 Success hopes people will come to see how much the program is making a difference in the lives of veterans. They’re also asking for anyone to donate any gently used musical instruments like saxophones, keyboards or pianos, and guitars.