Gordon Law never served in war, but he’s determined to help those who did handle their stress.
Law, with his friend Tom Baker, is one of the principals behind the Frets for Vets campaign, which offers veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression a 16-week guitar course. Vets who complete the course receive custom-made guitars, built by Baker, the program’s founder.
Law said he first got involved when Baker, president of the Oak Orchard chapter of Sons of the American Legion, was trying to donate a guitar that another organization did not want. They went to the Sons of the American Legion, which gave them the seed money to begin the program. They started almost two years ago, and six people have graduated. Law said the results have been apparent for those who have completed the program.
He said one participant and her husband had trouble even making eye contact with others.
“They would wait until one or two in the morning to go grocery shopping because they just couldn’t be around people. By the end, they were going to Yankee Stadium,” Law said.
He said the program allows veterans to focus their minds and take their minds away from what Law called, “The Beast,” the mental trauma experienced in war.
Soft-spoken and thin, Law and his wife, Kathy, live in Pot-Nets in Long Neck. He grew up outside Harrisburg, Pa., the son of a military man: Law’s father served in the Army’s 28th Division and retired as a brigadier general.
“It just kind of became a given that I was going to join,” he said.
Speaking of his father, Law said, “He was an eye doctor by trade. He was in the National Guard at the time. All my life growing up, one weekend a month my dad was gone. It just struck me as that’s what I wanted to do.”
Music entered Law’s life when he was 14, and he got his first guitar.
“I’m not a great guitar player, but I manage a song or two. I was a DJ from the time I was 16. Music has always been something that I loved,” he said.
Law entered the Army out of high school - his father swore him in - and went to officer’s school in Fort Benning, Georgia. It was the early 1980s, and Law did not see wartime service.
“The only thing that was going on was the Falkland Islands. Well, they didn’t need many people for that,” he said.
Seven years later, he left active service as a captain, but still served with the National Guard and the reserves.
Law first moved to Delaware in 2006. His family had been coming to the area for years, but he made the permanent move after his mother was diagnosed with leukemia. After her death, he stayed in the Cape Region to take care of his father. Law said at this point, he has no desire to live anywhere else.
“I go back up home, and I’m like, ‘I got to get back to the shore,’” he said. ”You get to know so many people down here, it’s incredible. It’s a real tight-knit community that sticks together.”
It was down here that he met Kathy, his wife of five years. They had both been married before; her ex-husband had passed away, and he was divorced. They were married at Zogg’s in Rehoboth Beach.
“We’ve actually known each other for a number of years,” Kathy said. “He helped bartend at the Legion, and I helped with catering events with the Auxillary, and we just kind of got to know each other.”
Law also dealt with challenges of his own. After the program got underway, he had a stroke, and shortly after that, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He said he’s happy to report that his doctors recently declared him cancer-free.
Law said he has always been active with the American Legion in some way. While he can’t be a member of the Legion because he did not see wartime service, his father was a member, which allowed Law to join the Sons of the American Legion. He serves as the Oak Orchard branch’s second vice commander, its third-highest rank. He views Frets for Vets as a way of giving back to soldiers who served in battle.
“I never had to do what these guys did. This is my way of paying them back,” Law said.
Law said he and Baker hope to offer Frets for Vets nationwide through the American Legion with Legions funding their own programs. Law and Baker fund Frets for Vets now through donations. In early June, they did a fundraiser at Paradise Grill in Pot-Nets Bayside that raised enough money to put another student through.
“We just keep plugging along,” Law said.