HomeNewsArticle Display

Healing through music

Former Maj. Frank Vassar plays one of his songs to fellow wounded Airmen during a music therapy session Nov. 19, 2015, on Joint Base Andrews, Md., as part of Warrior CARE Month. Airmen had the chance to use a variety of musical instruments and collaborate on songs in the sessions, which were intended to show wounded warriors a unique approach to therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sean Kimmons)

Former Maj. Frank Vassar plays one of his songs to fellow wounded Airmen during a music therapy session Nov. 19, 2015, on Joint Base Andrews, Md., as part of Warrior Care Month. Airmen had the chance to use a variety of musical instruments and collaborate on songs in the sessions, which were intended to show wounded warriors a unique approach to therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sean Kimmons)

First Sgt. Estevan Vigil taps a bongo as he sings along with other wounded Airmen during a music therapy session Nov. 19, 2015, on Joint Base Andrews, Md., as part of Warrior CARE Month. Airmen had the chance to use a variety of musical instruments and collaborate on songs in the sessions, which were intended to show wounded warriors a unique approach to therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sean Kimmons)

First Sgt. Estevan Vigil taps a bongo as he sings along with other wounded Airmen during a music therapy session Nov. 19, 2015, on Joint Base Andrews, Md., as part of Warrior Care Month. Airmen had the chance to use a variety of musical instruments and collaborate on songs in the sessions, which were intended to show wounded warriors a unique approach to therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sean Kimmons)

Nicki Rubin, a music therapist, encourages wounded Airmen to interact during a music therapy session Nov. 19, 2015, on Joint Base Andrews, Md., as part of Warrior CARE Month. Airmen had the chance to use a variety of musical instruments and collaborate on songs in the sessions, which were intended to show wounded warriors a unique approach to therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sean Kimmons)

Nicki Rubin, a music therapist, encourages wounded Airmen to interact during a music therapy session Nov. 19, 2015, on Joint Base Andrews, Md., as part of Warrior Care Month. Airmen had the chance to use a variety of musical instruments and collaborate on songs in the sessions, which were intended to show wounded warriors a unique approach to therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sean Kimmons)

Senior Airman Daryl Jose strums a ukulele during a music therapy session Nov. 19, 2015, on Joint Base Andrews, Md., as part of Warrior CARE Month. Airmen had the chance to use a variety of musical instruments and collaborate on songs in the sessions, which were intended to show wounded warriors a unique approach to therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sean Kimmons)

Senior Airman Daryl Jose strums a ukulele during a music therapy session Nov. 19, 2015, on Joint Base Andrews, Md., as part of Warrior Care Month. Airmen had the chance to use a variety of musical instruments and collaborate on songs in the sessions, which were intended to show wounded warriors a unique approach to therapy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sean Kimmons)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (AFNS) -- Former Maj. Frank Vassar pulled out his cellphone and played a song that he wrote and recorded as other wounded Airmen listened closely.

“… Bombs going off inside my head. Sometimes wishing I was dead. Demons deep inside me. I pray so hard I can’t fall asleep. …”

Vassar, 46, explained to about a dozen Airmen at a music therapy session Nov. 19 on Joint Base Andrews that the song, “Evil,” described his post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that he battles using music.

“Music has always been a release for me,” Vassar, of Oklahoma City, said after the Air Force Wounded Warrior event. “It calms me and puts me into a different world for a while.”

The world he generally inhabits is haunted with memories from three combat tours with security forces during his 13-year Air Force career that ended with him being medically retired.

“Every time I’m dreaming, it always ends in a blast or a firefight. That’s what I wake up with,” he said.

Some flashbacks stem from a close call with an enemy rocket while in Iraq in 2004. As he walked toward a courtyard in Baghdad’s Green Zone, a 122 mm rocket landed about 50 feet from him, causing him to black out and become disoriented.

“I was trying to figure out what just happened,” he recalled after the blast. “I looked up and the whole building was moving 15 feet to side to side. But it wasn’t. It was in my head.”

Finding solace

Years after seeing two friends get killed in Iraq, explosive ordnance disposal specialist Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ferrell now hopes music can curb his suicidal thoughts.

“It helps me find peace,” he said about music after his first introduction to the noninvasive therapy. “I just felt that I could deal with my demons on my own time.”

Ferrell, who is based at Andrews, said he’s been on five combat tours in his 12 years with the Air Force. While deployed in late 2009, a teammate next to him was killed when he triggered a roadside bomb, throwing Ferrell 15 feet into a wall. Two months later, Ferrell said he saw a second teammate fatally step on another bomb.

Since then, he’s struggled with the memories and has contemplated taking his own life.

“After over a decade of war it’s kind of boiled over,” he said.

With a wife and three children, including a baby, Ferrell believes they deserve better from him. Music could be a useful approach, because it lets him focus on the good things in life.

“It taps into so many different parts of the brain,” he said. “If there is empty space in my head, it fills up with negative things from my past. So, if I can fill it up with something positive, it helps.”

Music therapy can reduce stress, anxiety and pain, as well as engage military members in a meaningful activity as opposed to destructive thoughts or substance abuse.

“It distracts them and gives them something to do that can become a new habit. It’s kind of like retraining the brain and desensitizing it in a way,” said Nicki Rubin, a music therapist who helped teach groups of Airmen attending the weeklong wounded warrior event.

Songs can also make it easier for military members to open up about past experiences that may be difficult to do in regular therapy sessions.

“A lot of times traditional talk therapy isn’t efficient or helpful to veterans who may not be able to verbalize how they’re feeling,” Rubin said. “So music is a way for them to communicate and express themselves that seems a little less threatening, and can convey more sometimes than words.”

And through his music, that’s exactly what Vassar tries to do.

“It allows me to talk about something that happened without talking about it,” he said.

Engage

Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: .@cmsaf_official has the passion, the skills, and the strength of character we need to lead us…to face head-on the demand…
Twitter
Lt Gen David Allvin nominated to become Air Force Vice Chief of Staff https://t.co/JST6kf0H4g
Twitter
RT @AFGlobalStrike: The #Strikers of @AFGlobalStrike congratulation CMSgt Kaleth O. Wright on his retirement, and welcome @cmsaf_official C…
Twitter
RT @SpaceForceCSO: Congrats to CMSgt Joanne Bass, @usairforce CMSAF #19! Mollie & I are looking forward to working with you & Rahn in suppo…
Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA at 9:30AM EDT.… https://t.co/uUYv7TgMeb
Twitter
RT @HQUSAFEAFAF: #Airmen load up a C-130J Super Hercules before heading to #Bulgaria for Thracian Fall 2020. The @usairforce trains with B…
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: Airmen and Soldiers from the @CTNationalGuard delivered 21,000 cases of water from @fema to towns throughout the state in…
Twitter
RT @usairforce: “I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force...be dreamers – dream big.” - @CSMAF_Official #ReadyAF
Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA TOMORROW at 9:30AM ED… https://t.co/ok6km7nFoS
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Teammates, Let me start with 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒌 𝒚𝒐𝒖. https://t.co/xU6U3QuZV7
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Engaging through listening sessions, senior leaders are hearing directly from #Airmen and #SpaceProfessionals on diversi…
Twitter
RT @PACAF: JUST IN: Three #B2 Spirits from @Whiteman_AFB deployed to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia in support of #BTF missions. @IND
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: The #Airmen at @Creech_AFB make a global impact 24/7. The RPAs they operate provide vital intelligence and strike capabi…
Twitter
"I'm confident that our Air Force can continue to be the most dominant and respected Air Force in the world." -… https://t.co/PZQzLUGBxz
Twitter
Tactical Air Control Party Airmen assigned to @INGuardsman participate in close air support training. TACPs provide… https://t.co/BcyiAmfFmV
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: The @140Wg became the first ANG unit to successfully execute an agile combat employment exercise while at @Buckley_AFB. T…
Twitter
“I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force...be dreamers – dream big.” - @CSMAF_Officialhttps://t.co/AKSjyQNq4s
Twitter
A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 317th Airlift Wing flies during a Joint Forcible Entry exercise at Dyess… https://t.co/t3VXu0ZYWj
Twitter
Pentagon staff applaud @cmsaf_official as he exits the Pentagon for the last time as Chief Master Sgt. of the Air… https://t.co/c9RXsc3lAO
Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA on Aug 14 at 9:30AM E… https://t.co/GfPIHkx0zn
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,267,133
Follow Us