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.
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."
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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