He’s Got The Blues: Music Festival Benefiting Vets Returns To The Common

By Melisa Beth Ruiz

After a couple of rough years in terms of summer happenings, folks of Londonderry will be getting the Blues again–in a good way, of course.
The 8th Annual Blues Festival will be coming to the Londonderry Commons on August 27 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., featuring the soulful sounds of bands including the XBand Blues Band, The Blue Monkey Band, and Dr. Harp’s Blues Revue Band.
The first set is scheduled for 12 p.m., the second at 1:15 p.m., and the closer at 2:30 p.m.
Admission to the festival is free. There will be barbecue food and ice cream available to purchase from trucks on the festival grounds. A number of vendors will also be present offering opportunities for festival-goers to help support the festival’s cause.
100 percent of proceeds from the event will benefit the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association chapters NH5-1 and NH5-2. The CVMA is an association of veterans from all branches of the military who ride motorcycles as a hobby, whose mission is “to support and defend those who have defended their country and their freedoms.”
The event is organized by Londonderry resident Dennis “Dr. Harp” Martin, who in addition to putting on the event will also be providing vocals and “Harp (harmonica)” playing in his Blues Revue Band.
Martin has played the harmonica since the age of 10 and has been playing the Blues since his high school days.
Martin also served in the United States Coast Guard from 1979 until 1983. Sadly, shortly after returning to his home in Cape Cod after a medical discharge, Martin would find his life turned upside down.
Martin suffered a serious injury during his deployment, the effects of which caused him to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after he returned to the States. His symptoms were so severe that it led to difficulty keeping a job, which eventually led to a period of homelessness for Martin.
For at least a year, this veteran would struggle to get by from “couch surfing,” to staying in shelters, to even living in a tent in the woods for a time. Thankfully, this would change when a group of veterans of the Vietnam War happened upon him and helped him turn things around.
“My life got better then,” said Martin. “And it was because other vets helped me.”
Martin was back on his feet, and eventually moved from Cape Cod to New Hampshire where he as resided for nearly twenty years.
Although things have come up in a big way for him over the years, Martin still struggles with injury sustained from his time in the service. Although the average person might not notice it at first glance.
“It’s an injury you don’t see.” said Martin about his PTSD. “And I live with that.
“I don’t suffer with it, I live with it.”
Martin said that by attending group therapy with other veterans in situations similar to his, he is able to get through the hard times and manage his condition.
In an abundance of gratitude to the veterans who helped him get his life back, Martin found inspiration to begin his first Blues Festival nearly ten years ago, with the sole mission to help prevent what happened to Martin happen to other veterans and their families.
Martin spoke about the importance of veterans helping their fellow veterans, as despite their claims of the effectiveness of various programs, veteran outreach on the U.S. Government’s part didn’t necessarily include reaching out.
“You have to go to the streets.” Martin said in regards to Government programs’ sit-and-wait approach. “They know where they’re at, they have to go and talk to them.”
Martin said when he happens upon veterans he can tell are struggling, he will reach out and inform them about programs like the ones who helped him get on his feet. He also said that getting help isn’t as easy as people think.
“People will say, ‘Well, have them go to the VA.’ Well, they’re homeless! They don’t have money for the bus, how do they get there?”
Martin also said that many aging veterans were especially vulnerable, and most in need of assistance. However, that assistance seems to be just out of reach for many of them.
“A lot of Vietnam and World War Two vets don’t have access to phones and the internet,” said Martin. “That’s what the VA wants to do, everything has to be done online. But what about people who don’t know how to use the internet?”
The focus of the CVMA is to help veteran care facilities provide much needed services for struggling veterans, and their motto is “Vets Helping Vets.” The organization takes a proactive approach to helping defend those who have defended their country, which is why Martin has chosen the organization to benefit from the festival.
Martin’s career in and passion for Blues music spans decades, and he has perfected his harmonica or “Harp” playing by watching and listening to Blues artists from all over. One influence in particular that stood out in his memory was one “BIg Joe Turner,” a Blues vocalist who left him some words of wisdom. Words that in that moment helped him to hone his craft, and words that perhaps had helped him through tough times to come:
“He said, ‘Just sing the Blues…'” said Martin. “‘If you have the feeling, you’ll be fine.'”
Martin is still accepting vendors to help support veterans at the Blues Festival. Those interested in participating may contact him at either drharp83@hotmail.com or by calling (603) 303-0352.
For more information on the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association and Vets Helping Vets, visit www.combatvetsnh51.org and www.combatvets52.com.

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