MONTCLAIR, N.J. (AP) — During stressful times as a combat medic in Afghanistan, Mason Sullivan found solace in Vivaldi. New Jersey native Nairobi Cruz was comforted by country music, a genre she had never heard before joining the Army. For Jose Mercedes, it was an eclectic iPod mix that helped him cope with losing an arm during a tour of duty in Iraq.

These three young veterans all say music played a crucial role in alleviating the stresses of active duty. Now, all three are enrolled in a program that hopes to use music to ease their reintegration into civilian life.

"It's a therapy session without the 'sit down, lay down, and write notes,'" Mercedes, 26, of Union City, said of the music program. "It's different — it's an alternative that's way better."

The pilot program, called Voices of Valor, has veterans work as a group to synthesize their experiences into musical lyrics. Guided by musicians and a psychology mentor, they write and record a song, and then hold a CD release party. The program is currently under way at Montclair State University, where students participate through the school's veteran affairs program.

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