Army veteran uses music to help make his way

WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) — Weatherford native and U.S. Army veteran Taylor Bonham just got back from competing in the 2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Buffalo, New York, in late October, and his guitar strings and singing skills are what got him there.

The Weatherford Democrat reports having gotten out the military in 2012, Bonham was selected nationally to perform his single “Same Star” after showing off his skills at the Fort Worth VA Medical Center.

Guitar, plaid shirt and cowboy hat in tow, Bonham looked every bit the image of a country singer, but his struggle is anything but ordinary.

“This is a 22-Kill ring, figured I’d wear it every time I play,” Bonham recently said as he rested his finger on his guitar, in the Full Cup Bookstore and Coffee Shop.

“I got my start here; they used to let me play here all the time,” he said.

The ring is an allusion to the estimated number of veterans that commit suicide nationally, Bonham said.

Around 2013, Bonham dealt with post-traumatic stress, with alcohol serving as a coping mechanism, taking a toll on his liver.

“I couldn’t drive, couldn’t walk, I was in a wheelchair,” he said. “Trying to deal with it.”

Eventually, Bonham got better.

“The liver happens to be an organ that if you take care of it, it will regenerate on its own,” he said. “I stopped drinking. I started taking care of myself. I started going to therapy.”

Bonham ended up participating in a program known as Guitar for Heroes, a Fort-Worth based group that provides therapeutic activities for veterans.

“I’ve played since I was 8 years-old … I convinced my wife to drive me up there every day or every week, and I would help teach the class,” he said. “Along the way, I started getting healthier to where I could walk. I’m still sick; I take 34 different medications a day.”

Bonham wrote the song “Same Star” last October.

“A song’s a story; I can write a story … I wrote it in about 15 minutes.”

Competing in Buffalo was great, Bonham said.

“I got the opportunity to go up and play with all the other winners,” he said. “The talent up there is literally humbling. I was one of 53 performers, and I felt like, I just thought, ‘I can’t believe the veteran community has this kind of talent.’

“It gives veterans like myself who can’t have a job something to strive for.”

Bonham now plays around the Weatherford and Dallas-Fort Worth area for a variety of fundraisers and other charitable organizations.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for all those organizations, if they hadn’t’ given me something to strive for then I wouldn’t have cared, I would’ve wasted away.”

“People seem to like what I do, and that’s how it all came about,” Bonham said. “I’m very honored, very blessed just to be here. Every day I wake up I’m thankful, and if I can help one of our brothers and sisters not get to the point where I was at, then I’ve done my job.”