Marte Byrne’s mom sent him a guitar for his birthday when he was deployed to Iraq. Little did he know that this one gift would soon turn into a charitable organization, aptly named Operation Happy Note, that would deliver 4,500 free instruments to soldiers serving overseas in the next 6 years.
After he received his present, Marte sent requests for several more instruments to help relieve stress and raise morale in his unit. His parents, after all, owned a music store.
Eventually, they were sending out “fifty, sixty — at one point, ninety — guitars in one day,” said his mother, Barbara Baker, who began fundraising to pay for all the shipments.
Soon they started sending more than just guitars, including mandolins, violins, banjos, all kinds of horns, keyboards. “We’ve even sent bagpipes, accordions, tons of harmonicas, kazoos, anything that people donate to us, any type of musical instrument that is donates to us, we’ll send it to the troops.”
They’ve also packed extra goodies inside — guitar straps, strings, tuners, as well as a set of DVDs that teach the recipient how to play the guitar.
“It was like Christmastime every time an instrument arrived and someone got to open it,” says Byrne, describing the camaraderie created by the packages.