SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Veterans lifted their voices in San Francisco Sunday afternoon at Calvary Presbyterian Church in celebration of the healing power of music and poetry- and the nonprofit helping to make it accessible.
"Music and poetry has become my therapy and a really great outlet for my expression," said Robert Kaplan.
Kaplan served in the Navy for four years but said his biggest battle had been with addiction.
"If I put a substance in my body, I tend not to be able to stop taking it, and it's an escape. I"m running from the way I'm feeling," Kaplan said.
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He credits Richard Harrell with helping him to stop running and start feeling.
"I feel safe with Rich," said Kaplan. "He's a wonderful human being."
Harrell's a wonderful singer, as well -- his opera career taking him around the globe as a soloist and a teacher.
"I used to see these young veterans in airports that were the same age as my college students going off to Iraq and Afghanistan and whatnot, and I had this epiphany: let me serve these young people," Harrell said."I was always a little bit of a science nerd, and so I was following music therapy, and what we were discovering about the power of music therapy. So I created Heroes' Voices to do music therapy with veterans."
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For 10 years now, the nonprofit has been offering free community workshops and taking their programs into prisons -- that's where Kaplan was encouraged to start writing and playing.
"I met Robert in San Francisco County Jail out in San Bruno, and he was gung-ho about singing and poetry," Harrell said.
"I just keep writing. The stuff flows out me, so I'll be reciting four poems today," said Kaplan, who went on to earn a semi-finalist spot in The National Veterans Poetry Contest.
Kaplan recited four of his published poems Sunday, surrounded by people proud of how far he - and others- have come.
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