For many soldiers who have been wounded in combat, the fight really begins after they're released from the hospital and recovery begins. Now, a Gravois Mills area musician is starting a program to support them in their recovery.
Dave Dunklee will be giving free guitar lessons to interested wounded warriors starting April 18 at Fort Leonard Wood.
Dunklee is calling the program "The Healing Box Project" — inspired by old folk guitars made from box crates and wooden boxes modified with a pole neck and strings.
Playing guitar can help the neurology of soldiers who have suffered head injuries as well as help relieve stress related to coping with their life-changing injury, according to Dunklee.
"It helps these soldiers, who are very active by nature, to set goals for themselves and have some fun, too," he says. "I am just trying to help them put their lives back together after they have been altered forever."
Dunklee knows first-hand how the effects of a life-changing injury. A severe head injury 54 years ago resulted in the complete loss of sight in one eye.
The healing, says Dunklee, will begin with the first strum of the guitar.
The 71-year-old musician has been playing guitar for 63 years, and was a music teacher in public schools for 20 years.
Dunklee's inspiration for the project is his son's service with the Army Reserves. Dustin Dunklee — the Morgan County prosecuting attorney — is currently deployed in the Middle East.
"My son has been in the Reserves since high school. He's serving and I thought maybe there was something I could do to help out," says Dunklee. "I was up for the draft in the '70s and my eyesight kept me from going, but I've always been patriotic."
The men and women of the armed services are "our nation's heroes," he says. "I don't see them as wounded or as anything less than a hero. They inspire me because they are determined to overcome adversity," he adds.
In order to provide this service at Fort Leonard Wood, Dunklee has undergone extensive testing, immunizations and training to become a Red Cross volunteer.
His wife C.J. will be driving him from Gravois Mills to Fort Leonard Wood on Thursdays where he will spend the day giving lessons.
Dunklee is looking for donations to help with The Healing Box Project. Guitars and lessons books are needed. He will accept gently used guitars or those in need of minor repairs as well as monetary donations.
"I'd like to be able to say, we have collected guitars and donations to provide guitars that will last a lifetime for every soldier that takes advantage of my guitar lessons," Dunklee says. "It's a gift of heartfelt thanks for their service to our country and us. The real gift is seeing the faces of soldiers making music."
Page 2 of 2 - The Healing Box Project is now a registered non-profit organization. Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 66, Gravois Mills, MO 65037, or call Dave Dunklee at 573-372-1234 for more information.