Guitar for a Veteran

Instuctor Charles Poplees, from left, Dan Molthen and Theresa Molthen celebrate Mr. Molthen's graduation from Guitars 4 Vets.

It was an ongoing success story when Guitars for Vets presented another graduate of the program a guitar during a ceremony at the Hub on Canal in New Smyrna Beach recently.

It meant a lot to the graduate.

“It isn’t about me getting a guitar,” said Dan Molthen, a former helicopter pilot with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, who was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. “It’s about what this program does for veterans.”

Guitars for Vets is a federally registered non-profit organization that enhances the lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing lessons and guitars free. The program operates in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans are recommended for the program by the Veterans Administration, and volunteer instructors provide the lessons.

Sally Mackay, one of three founders of the Hub on Canal and a former New Smyrna Beach mayor (2007-2009), was on hand in the Hub’s courtyard Feb. 1 to open the ceremony.

“Guitars for Vets is a national organization with over 100 chapters,” she said. “New Smyrna Beach is proud to be one of those chapters.

“Founded and run by David Maib (a Vietnam Army veteran) in June of 2018, our chapter has taught 75 veterans how to play and find relaxation and enjoyment,” she continued. “We have had 17 graduates, including today’s graduate, Mr. Dan Molthen.”

The Hub has loaner guitars the veterans may use for lessons. Veterans start out in small group lessons to give them the basics before going on to 10 individual lessons, she explained. When the 10 lessons have been completed, the veteran is provided with a new guitar.

The local Guitars for Vets chapter, which operates primarily with volunteers and donations, provides the new guitar when a veteran completes his or her lessons and is ready to graduate.

Several of the local volunteer instructors were on hand for the ceremony, including Mr. Maib, the Guitars for Vets area coordinator; Charlie Poplees, Guy Perry; and Ed Tobin. Also attending was Carla Howe, veteran outreach specialist with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Mr. Molthen’s wife, Theresa, who is a singer and musician herself.

Mr. Poplees, Mr. Molthen’s instructor, said, “Dan is a genuine American hero. He was a graduate of the Naval Academy. He was one of the most attentive students I’ve had, he was grateful for the time, and he loves music. It was a ‘win-win’ experience. Congratulations Dan.”

All of the volunteer instructors are accomplished musicians and all describe the Guitars for Vets program as one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. The pandemic slowed the program down this year, because the VA restricted any face-to-face volunteer activities at their facilities. There were no new referrals for a year. As conditions improve however, any veterans interested in the program may contact Mr. Maib at (612) 202-6309 or visit

The program provides a healing experience for veterans through music. “Many vets find hope in an unlikely place – behind the wood and strings of an acoustic guitar,” the website states.

Mr. Molthen described it another way: “The ladies and guys volunteering their time, it just does a lot for vets. It’s a great way to relax and forget about the bad things that can go along with the military.”

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