"We could sure use some guitars over there, but you can't afford that," one of them told her.
"What if I get them donated?" she asked.
"Well, we don't take charity. We're Marines," the troops responded.
"What if you take them as a gift from a grateful nation?" she asked.
"Ma'am, that would be awesome," one responded.
Edith LeMaster of Aurora Colorado thought that her son who loved to pick on the guitar, just might need one to help stave of the many things that can happen when a soldier's mind idles in the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan. She knew that other Marines besides her son would love to have a guitar to help pass the time. She took some time to talk to her son's entire unit before they left for Iraq and figured out a way to get guitars sent to the unit. She spoke to Pete Vriesenga from the Denver Musicians Association with a plan to solicit donated guitars. "We made this an adjunct effort with our annual Showcase fundraiser last April," Vriesenga said. In June, the Denver Grateful Dead tribute band, JUBA JUBA!, won a guitar in a battle of the bands in Glenwood Springs and donated it, said lead guitarist Steve LaZar. "I put up a sign that said: 'Free Guitars. First Come, First Served.' I gave away all the instruments in 10 minutes," Kaniatobe said.
There is one rule...the guitars have to stay in Iraq. They are not to be sold. More are on the way and if anyone wants to help LeMaster, she definitely needs it. She's convinced the guitars will help Marines cope with combat stress and could even bridge cultural gaps with the Iraqis themselves.
How to help
To donate guitars, harmonicas or cash to purchase instruments for members of the armed forces in Iraq, contact the Denver Musicians Association, 1165 Delaware St., Denver, CO 80204, or call 303-573-1717.