Guitars for Heroes gives vets ‘something to strive for,’ singer says
By JELANI GIBSON | Weatherford Democrat | Published: November 24, 2017
WEATHERFORD, Texas — Former U.S. Army Sgt. Taylor Bonham just came back from competing in the 2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Buffalo, N.Y., in late October, and he credits his faith, his wife and fellow veterans for his journey.
Bonham, who got out of the Army in 2012, was selected nationally to perform his single “Same Star” after showing off his skills at the Fort Worth VA Medical Center.
With his guitar, plaid shirt and cowboy hat, Bonham looks every bit the country singer, but his struggle is anything but ordinary.
“This is a #22Kill ring, figured I’d wear it every time I play,” Bonham said, sporting a black band on the index finger of his right hand. The honor ring is from a charity named for the estimated number of veterans who commit suicide every day, Bonham said while he sat at the Full Cup Bookstore and Coffee Shop in Weatherford, Texas, west of Fort Worth.
“I got my start here; they used to let me play here all the time,” he said.
In 2013, Bonham was drinking heavily to deal with post-traumatic stress. It took a toll on his liver; he “drank himself into a coma,” he said, and doctors gave him six to 12 months to live.
“I couldn’t drive, couldn’t walk, I was in a wheelchair,” he said.
Then, Bonham stopped drinking and started getting better.
“The liver happens to be an organ that if you take care of it, it will regenerate on its own,” he said. “I started taking care of myself. I started going to therapy.”
Bonham, 46, joined Guitars for Heroes, a Fort Worth program that provides therapeutic activities for veterans.
“I’ve played since I was 8 years old. ... I convinced my wife to drive me up there every day or every week, and I would help teach the class,” he said. “Along the way, I started getting healthier to where I could walk. I’m still sick; I take 34 different medications a day.”
But God had a bigger plan for him, he said.
Bonham wrote the song “Same Star” in October 2016.
He had volunteered to help on a hunting trip for vets in Oklahoma — “flat, no trees and lots of coyotes” — doing dishes and fishing while the others hunted. “I was out there alone with my guitar. I remembered a time in the Army before cell phones and email. When we actually had to write letters to our loved ones back home. I kept looking at this star and wondering if my wife was looking at the same one.”
He wrote the song when he got home. “A song’s a story; I can write a story ... I wrote it in about 15 minutes,” he said.
Competing in Buffalo with other vets was great, he said.
“I got the opportunity to go up and play with all the other winners,” he said. “The talent up there is literally humbling. I was one of 53 performers, and I felt like, I just thought, ‘I can’t believe the veteran community has this kind of talent.’
“It gives veterans like myself who can’t have a job something to strive for.”
Bonham plays around the Weatherford and Dallas-Fort Worth area for charity fundraisers.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all those organizations, if they hadn’t given me something to strive for then, I wouldn’t have cared, I would’ve wasted away.”
“People seem to like what I do, and that’s how it all came about,” Bonham said. “I’m very honored, very blessed just to be here. Every day I wake up I’m thankful, and if I can help one of our brothers and sisters not get to the point where I was at, then I’ve done my job.”
To read more about #22Kill go to www.22kill.com. For more on Guitars for Heroes, go to guitars4heroes.org.
Stars and Stripes contributed to this article.