Happy Notes Reach Troops From Minnesota

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2008 - Letters a Minnesota couple has received thanking them for musical instruments they've sent to deployed troops show that just a simple note can change the atmosphere in the desert.

"The purpose of these ... instruments is to relieve stress and raise morale," said Barb Baker, one of the founders of Operation Happy Note. "According to the letters we receive, music is a great stress reliever."

Operation Happy Note sends free musical instruments to deployed servicemembers wherever they're stationed.

Baker and her husband, Steve, owners of Fergus Music in Fergus, Minn., unwittingly started Operation Happy Note in March 2005 when they sent her son a guitar for his birthday. He was serving overseas with 134th Signal Battalion at the time.

"He had a buddy who saw it and wanted one, and then another buddy," Baker said. "It was decided [we would] hold a fundraiser so we could send more guitars to his unit, and we just never quit."

The organization kept right on growing and garnered national attention with mentions in national news programs and periodicals. To date, the organization has sent more than 2,500 instruments to servicemembers, including guitars, mandolins, banjos, violins, horns and harmonicas. Anything that makes music is fair game; Steve Baker even wrote a lesson program that includes a CD for those who don't know how to play an instrument.

More than 1,300 troops are on the waiting list for instruments. The organization has a large inventory of instruments, but it lacks the funds to ship them.

"It costs an average of $15 to $30 to ship an instrument," Baker said. "Our last inventory shows that it would take $34,000 to send the instruments we have on hand."

Operation Happy Note is a new supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

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