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Vetstock serves as therapy for former military members

Hundreds turned out for the daylong festival featuring musical performances by veterans at 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue.

Five bands were scheduled to play at Vetstock

Five bands were scheduled to play at Vetstock at 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Hundreds of veterans and their supporters descended on the 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue on Saturday for Vetstock, a festival that featured musical acts by military veterans.

Army veteran Joseph Altiperti, who ground out bass riffs with the band Blueberry Strange, said spending Veterans Day entertaining others who served in the military was moving.

“To be able to give back to other veterans means a lot,” said Altiperti, 59, a Lindenhurst auto parts salesman. “This is my therapy.”

One attendee was Aynisa Leonardo of Holbrook, a therapist who works with veterans.

Veterans, who often feel isolated when they return from military service, benefit from activities that bring them together, she said.

“Events like these can be very important to them,” said Leonardo, who works with The Resilience Project, a Merrick-based veterans help group. “Theirs is an unspoken connection.”

The indoor festival, which ran from noon to 6 p.m., was the brainchild of Army veteran Patrick Donohue, who began producing Vetstock three years ago as a way of helping veterans who struggled after coming home from war.

Donohue stepped down as the event’s producer this year, turning over the reins to Blue Star mom Marge Ryan so he could begin classes at Touro Law School.

The festival featured several veterans who had sharpened music and songwriting skills in workshops Donohue helped organize through Project 9 Line, a veterans assistance group he founded after returning from war and feeling out of place in the civilian world.

While serving with the Army’s 2nd “Strike” Brigade in 2010, Donohue’s unit of the 101st Airborne was sent to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.

Like many returning soldiers, Donohue struggled with depression, anxiety and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after coming home in 2012 — symptoms he could not keep at bay through prescription drugs.

The death of a cousin, a fellow veteran who also suffered war-related psychological issues, left Donohue feeling even more isolated. He struggled in relationships and felt like an outcast in his Long Island suburb that has virtually no military community.

To channel his anxieties into a productive accomplishment, he founded Project 9 Line in 2014 to help veterans manage their war-related anxieties and reintegrate into civilian life.

The Islip-based organization provides programs in which veterans can express themselves through guitar lessons, comedy workshops, the visual arts and songwriting. Project 9 Line also offers martial arts and yoga.

On Saturday, as the Mountain Jam Orchestra band played a cover of The Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky,” former Kings Park resident Tom Dunn bobbed to the music.

Having retired to upstate Saratoga, the Vietnam-era Army veteran drove four hours to attend, saying it was important to him to share the camaraderie of military buddies.

“The Vietnam War was a tough one — all the guys that we lost,” said Dunn, who served in an infantry unit. “This is a show of love and support for what they did.”

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