Sleep-starved from a repeating nightmare and weary from wondering when all that therapy would reignite his fading hope, former Army tank gunner Jeff Barillaro took aim at his stubborn target with an attack as brilliant as it was simple. He decided to break up with PTSD.
And he would do it in his increasingly famous style — studio-recorded hip-hop, under his stage name, Soldier Hard.
“I thought: If I could write a letter to PTSD, what would I say to PTSD? Then I thought: Oh, wow, this is going to be powerful,” said Barillaro, an Iraq War veteran, out of the service since 2010, who has steadily gained fame among active-duty troops, young veterans and their families for his bare, often-bleak music about the daily demons of living with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Last May, “Dear PTSD,” streamed from his busy mind to his scribbling fingers and, ultimately into a microphone: “Did you listen good when I said, Leave me be? PTSD, get the hell away from me. Cuz you held me down, didn’t even let me sleep, didn’t even let me breathe, didn’t let me live in peace.”
Under his stage name, Soldier Hard, Barillaro founded a nonprofit record label, Redcon-1 Music Group whose mission is “To help control symptoms of PTSD for our warfighter community through Music and Making Music.”
The label not only produces the work of other talented veterans, it provides workshops and other events to veterans and their families. Quoting Ron Borczon, a professor of music at California State University at Northridge who specializes in music therapy, “Through the musical experience, they find hope that they can get better.” He points out that the act of performing and listening to music lowers stress levels and reduces heart rate and blood pressure.
The official website for the label states that music therapy can help control anxiety and bring comfort both to those suffering from the condition and their families. His hard-driving lyrics and those of a number of other veterans have touched the lives of thousands of vets and their families. Visit their website to sample the music and explore where and how their programs work: http://www.redcon1musicgroup.org
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