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(NECN: Lauren Collins, NH) - A New Hampshire man, back from Iraq and tormented by war, has found an inner peace and a new career through his music.
Aaron Lee Marshall wasn't sure what to do with his life, so after 9/11, the former high school basketball star dropped out of college.
"I joined the military," says Marshall, "and ended up getting pretty much sent straight over to Iraq."
452 days and a Purple Heart later, he was back home in New Hampshire with a bad back and deep psychological wounds.
"I still had one foot in Iraq and trying to transform back into being a civilian and it was really difficult. I was abusing alcohol to help cope with that and it spiraled out of control."
Divorced and, as he puts it, "paranoid," Aaron found solace in his daughter, Grace, and in the guitar that he first picked up at Plymouth State.
"Other than my daughter, that's the only other thing that would keep me going."
His mother is the one who noticed how music made Aaron smile. She suggested he get into the studio and paid for the time at Superior Sound in Somersworth.
"I was pretty much blown away," says producer Francisco Santos, Jr., who put together Now Maybe, a ten-track album released in December that's already made an impression on the local music scene.
His is the number two best selling album at the local chain Bull Moose Records.
"It seems like he has a lot to say and he has a great way of saying and his song writing is impressive," says Santos.
This may be Aaron's first album but it like won't be his last. He's already penned more than one hundred songs to paper. In June, he'll headline a concert at the Rochester Opera House.
Aaron's newfound music career has only developed over the last year -- but in that time he's come a long way.
"For five years while I was playing the guitar, I never finished a song," he says. "I just was playing and had different licks and riffs and never actually put anything together."
With each song he completes, a part of him heals. He says since he started the album, "I feel like I'm coming out of a fog."
Aaron is now sober and back in school earning a business degree. He's not sure what the music world holds for him, but his producer believes in his talent.
"He's got a great story behind this, he's a great individual," says Santos, "but the reason why it's really taken off is because the music's great."
What was cathartic is now hopeful. Aaron says this album has turned his life around. And while he tries *not* to think of Iraq these days, he wouldn't change a thing.
"I wouldn't regret anything I've ever done. I've definitely made more than my fair share of mistakes, but I think everything happens for a reason.
Aaron's album Now Maybe is available at Bull Moose Record stores in Maine and New Hampshire, and on iTunes. His concert at the Rochester Opera House is June 10th.