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-connected disabilities and at the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee a form therapy that's been developed over seven decades is continuing to produce remarkable results.

"We identify what kind of music that the people we work with connect to, what kind of music is meaningful to them," said Christine Wiggin, Veteran Affairs music therapist.

"It's like thinking out loud making thoughts audible," said Gary Pochert, a U.S. Army Veteran.

Pochert served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968.

"Vietnam war was raging, and they needed bodies. Fifteen weeks after I turned nineteen my number came up and I end up going into the military," said Pochert.

Although drafted into the military this vet has music in his heart.

"I like walking the bass, 12 bar blues progression," said Pochert as he played his green bass guitar in the cafeteria of the VA Medical Center.

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

"He was German and somewhat overbearing, and if I was acting up at a restaurant, he would shhh, you can't do that. That was his favorite thing, you can't do that, so I started to believe that, and that effected, the way I communicated," said Pochert. 

Nearly eight decades later Pochert is a patient of music therapy. The vet said music helped him find his voice.

"We are functional goals, so we are looking at the same things that other therapies are looking at, just using music as our modality," said Caitlin Armson Board Certified Music therapist

Armson said, Pochert is an inspiration, "he picks up on the music faster than when we first started, his finger dexterity, I've noticed has improved, he's kind of come alive in the last four months."

Pochert isn't alone in his music therapy journey.

U.S. Navy vet Steve Johnson got to live out 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 to Facebook.

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

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

"When I'm playing, I'm not here, I've might have been playing on the road in Augusta Georgia," said Pochert

The vet went on to say, " I would say its medicine, it allows someone to open up, be something other than themselves."

Music therapists say there are goals set for each patient and once those goals are reached a patient can be discharged from the program, should they choose.

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