By Jessica Chin
When a 46-member musical ensemble, Voices for Veterans, sings out, it wants to do more than honor and raise money for veterans. Its founder, Dr. Robert Goebel, a New Hyde Park chiropractor, said it also tries to spread awareness of the difficulties veterans face.
Goebel created the group, which raised nearly $10,000 at a concert on Oct. 22 at the Madison Theater at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, in 2014 after raising money through smaller shows with a band.
On Feb. 2, at a thank-you event at the Irish American Society banquet hall in Mineola, the money from the concert was distributed to two Long Island veterans organizations, Women in the Military and Nassau County United Veterans Self-Help Residency Program Inc., and to a Nassau Community College scholarship fund for veterans.
“At the shows we educate people about what veterans are going through, about the misconception that the government helps all veterans all the time, that they provide all the services veterans need, and it’s not true,” Goebel said. “There are veterans slipping through the cracks. They’re not getting the services, or can’t get the services, or are not entitled to those services.”
Although not a veteran himself, Goebel has a familial connection to them — his uncles, father and father-in-law were veterans.
His father-in-law’s affliction with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after being injured on duty is a big reason Goebel began the organization, he said.
Goebel’s father-in-law, Theodore Bouchard, a Korean War veteran, was severely injured when a truck he was in rolled over. He was treated at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“It took him years to overcome some of the disabilities he had,” Goebel said.
PTSD was not a known condition at the time his father-in-law was hurt, making his and other veterans’ struggles with the condition especially harrowing, Goebel said.
Some veterans get into trouble with the law as a result of PTSD and sometimes go to jail, Goebel said.
Veterans also have a higher suicide rate than civilians, Goebel said. From 2001 to 2014, the civilian suicide rate rose about 23.3 percent while the rate of suicide among veterans rose more than 32 percent, according to a 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs study.
On Feb. 1, the night before the “Voices for Veterans Thank You Event” for donors where the funds were distributed, Goebel received a call from one of his singers.
“He said he might not be able to sing tomorrow because his neighbor and friend of 35 years old killed himself the night before the show,” Goebel said. “These suicides, they’re close to home, they happen to people we know.”
Ed Post, a Vietnam veteran honored at a Voices for Veterans concert, enjoyed it so much that he decided to join the organization as a committee member.
“What I found is that it’s hard to get dedicated people to do something for nothing and I see these people actually go out of their way to make an event happen,” Post said. “They raised money that they may need and gave it away to organizations that need help for veterans and I thought that was great and that’s why I’m a part of it.”
Although Voices for Veterans currently hosts one major concert a year, Goebel hopes to also perform at military hospitals.
The group is working to take a show to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and veterans hospitals in New York City and on Long Island “to let them know we care about them,” Goebel said.
To raise money for the trip to Walter Reed, Voices for Veterans will launch a “Sponsor a Mile” fundraising page on its website next week.
Goebel also hopes the organization will gain more recognition so it can get sponsors to help raise more awareness and money for veterans’ issues, he said.
“We use a theater that seats 500, but we want to make it to 1,000 to 1,500 people,” Goebel said. “We want to increase the number of people that get to see the show so that they can understand what veterans go through and help us with our goals.”