VA Medical Center in Milwaukee uses music therapy to help veterans heal

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – More than 300,000 veterans live in the state of Wisconsin and nationwide, more than 4.7 million veterans have service-related disabilities and at the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, a form of therapy developed over seven decades continues to produce remarkable results.

“We identify what kind of music the people we work with connect with, what kind of music is meaningful to them,” said Christine Wiggin, veteran music therapist.

“It’s like thinking out loud, making thoughts audible,” said Gary Pochert, a US Army veteran.

Pochert served in the United States Army from 1966 to 1968.

“The Vietnam War was raging and they needed bodies. Fifteen weeks after I turned nineteen, my number came up and I ended up going into the military,” Pochert said.

Although enlisted in the army, this veterinarian has music in his heart.

“I like to step on the bass, the 12-bar blues progression,” Pochert said as he played his green bass guitar in the cafeteria at the VA Medical Center.

Pochert said that as a young boy he grew up with a strict father who often had only one answer, no.

“He was German and a bit bossy, and if I acted in a restaurant he would shh, you can’t do that. It was his favorite thing, you can’t do that, so I started to believe that, and it affected how I communicated,” Pochert said.

Nearly eight decades later, Pochet is a music therapy patient. The vet said the music helped him find his voice.

“We’re functional goals, so we’re looking at the same things as other therapies, just using music as a modality,” said board-certified music therapist Caitlin Armson.

Armson said, Pochert is an inspiration, “he picks up the music faster than when we started, his finger dexterity, I noticed it’s improved, he kind of came to life at the over the past four months.”

Pochert is not alone in his music therapy journey.

US Navy vet Steve Johnson was able to live what he calls a dream come true, singing in front of a large crowd.

Johnson went viral after a video of him singing was posted on Facebook.

The video was taken during a music therapy session, catching the attention of the milkman’s baseball team, reaching over 2,000 people.

At the VA, Pochert said music allows him to escape to a new place to relive what he calls the glory days.

“When I play I’m not there, I might have played on the road in Augusta Georgia,” Pochert said.

The vet went on to say, “I would say it’s medicine, it allows someone to open up, to be something other than themselves.”

Music therapists say there are set goals for each patient and once those goals are met, a patient can be fired from the program, if they wish.

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