WASHINGTON — Clark Kniceley remembers sitting in an Army hospital during the first Gulf War wishing he could get his hands on a guitar.

“For a lot of people, it’s just something to do, something to take you away,” said Kniceley, now a retired medic living in Connecticut. “I had brought my guitar over to the war with me. For me, it gave me peace of mind.”

Kniceley said after several sinus surgeries and months in the hospital, he did finally get a guitar and felt calmer immediately.

Now he’s trying to extend that serenity through Operation Music Aid, a nonprofit he founded with music store owner George Hauer which gives musical instruments to wounded troops to help ease the pain and boredom of recovery.

On Friday, the pair visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington to deliver 12 guitars, six keyboards and nearly 100 harmonicas — as well as stands, carrying cases and tuning equipment — for the patients recovering there.

“When Clark told me having these guitars could have made a huge difference in his rehab, we both decided to do what we could to help,” Hauer said.

The group sent a similar acoustic care package to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas last month. So far, they’ve raised nearly $25,000 in equipment and cash donations, and they’re hoping to reach out to more military centers in coming months.

Most of the donations have come from Hauer’s music business contacts, but they also include a $4,000 keyboard donated by a Hartford veteran’s widow, to be used at Walter Reed’s chapel.

In addition, the men supplied dozens of guitar straps and harmonica holders to assist servicemembers who may have lost a limb. Hauer said the instruments will be used in both art therapy and occupational therapy sessions.

During their visit Friday, he said, a few patients instantly flocked to the donated instruments and thanked the men for the distraction.

Hauer said the group is still receiving donations and is seeking more military hospitals that could use the instruments, including ones overseas. The group is also having Web site services donated, and will be online at in coming days.

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