Veterans' Voices: Anthony Mannino

Anthony Mannino is a retired Marine staff sergeant who is now working as a veteran's service representative for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Music therapy had a much bigger impact on me and my healing process than I thought it would. I was never a musically inclined person; in fact, I was never fond of therapy either. I was near the lowest point in my recovery process, newly inpatient at the hospital in a residential mental health program and still in the mindset that I would take my own life before I would even finish the inpatient program. I randomly went walking the corridors one afternoon and stopped in front of the music therapy office. The therapist took me in and explained what music therapy is, and I just started explaining my situation to her and out came so many things I had been through, issues I hadn’t even discussed with my psychiatrist. Somehow a music therapist was able to get through to me when no one else could. Music therapy saved my life. I don’t think there can be any greater or more profound impact on someone than that. Once I was a part of music therapy, I began to find purpose in my life again, I had begun to heal. Music therapy projects that I worked on at NICoE became important to many areas of my life, including my own wedding.  

Music therapy is different because there are so many forms of media where I am able to convey my thoughts and emotions. Music provides a buffer zone where I can feel more comfortable sharing things with others that are difficult to discuss in conversation. Recovering from numerous surgeries and complying with psychiatric programs is taxing on the body, the mind, and the soul. Music therapy became an outlet for me. I could practice guitar and forget about my difficulties for a while. If I got frustrated, I could put the guitar away and play it again when I wasn’t frustrated. While I learned to play music, I also learned how to better deal with my own personal issues. Interacting with the music therapists just felt safer, and I was able to bring my walls down a bit and become less guarded from those who just wanted to help me. Music therapy is bridging gaps that other therapies couldn’t, and believe me, I’ve tried everything.

Man in a simple music studio with music stand in front of a professional recording microphone
Retired Marine staff sergeant Anthony Mannino during his music therapy at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence. Photo by Rebecca Vaudreuil

I had a great time learning and developing my music skills on both guitar and bass guitar. I had another surgery, this time on my shoulder, that has kept me from practicing the last few months, but as my strength returns, practicing these instruments will be a very helpful way to rebuild the strength in my arm. I have the instruments in my house, so I am able to play whenever I feel like it. I also learned how to create music on the computer with the GarageBand music program, which has been a lot of fun. I have stayed in touch with my music therapist from NICoE and she has really been a blessing in my life. I am definitely going to continue playing the bass guitar and I am lucky to have family members that also play instruments who want to help me out. I have some music projects in mind, and hopefully I will be able to work with therapists here in New York to continue my healing process through music.