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Guitars for Vets, Great Big Sea's Sean McCann help soldiers heal through music

Guitars for Vets, Great Big Sea's Sean McCann help soldiers heal through music
From CBC - October 22, 2017

At first it may seem an unlikely coupling, the pacifist and the soldier, but they share one important goal: Helping Canada's homeless and struggling veterans.

Sean McCann seemed to have the world by the tail. One of the front men for the internationally successful Newfoundland band Great Big Sea, his outside demeanour was the stuff of peace and love. But inside he held dark secrets of childhood abuse that, when combined with an addiction to alcohol, were slowly eating away at him.

Jim Lowther was a career soldiera trained sniper, two tours of duty in Bosnia, deployed on a warship during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Inside, the things that he witnessed and that he survivedwere consuming him, too. In his darkest moments he thought of ways to quietly end it all, to fake an "accident."

"You feel like you are drowning,"recalls Lowther, "and you ca not catch a breath, right?And you just want to catch a breath.

"There were times when I would be driving, I would think maybe I will just veer off the road, undo my seatbelt, you know what I mean. End it, right?And I never really said that before, but many times I felt like that."

"I related to Jim," McCann says. "Even though I have not served in an army, I know what it's like to be alone and to be struggling through a crisis. In my case it was alcoholism and facing my own past."

What brought them together was the ability to find comfort in music and a desire to help others, veterans mostly, who desperately need the help.

Coping with demons

Lowther had set up Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada in 2010, a program run by volunteers to help homeless vets in crisis. Since January this year alone, VETS Canada has received more than 1,000 calls from people across the country asking for help.

But Lowther wanted to do more.Picking up the guitar and drifting inside the music helped him cope with his demons, and he thought it could help others too.

Guitars for Vets was born.

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