Veterans find therapy in building birdhouses

Channel 6 military reporter Jillian Angeline reports.

TEMPLE - Local veterans find creative ways to cope with the stress from military service and wartime experiences.

Veterans said when they are focused on woodworking, all their worries go away.

"Help Heal Vets" is an organization offering free therapeutic craft kits.  They held a birdhouse competition and received lots of entries--some patriotic, some religious and some spooky in honor of Halloween.

But Army veteran Connie Russell took a different approach.

"You see these old men's faces that go on trees. So, I just incorporated a face and put it on a birdhouse and wrapped it in bamboo," Russell told Channel 6.  

Russell added some Spanish moss to the birdhouse, who she named "Oliver." 

Russell joined the Army right out of high school and deployed to Korea. She's lived in the Fort Hood community ever since.  Her woodworking hobby spans more than 15 years.

"It blocks my mind, it clears everything, it's my escape," Russell said.

The birdhouses are therapeutic for Vietnam Veteran Dick Artman, too.  He's made 15 birdhouses and lots of decorative shadow boxes. Building the birdhouses helps Artman cope through wartime experiences from Vietnam.

"The stuff I did in Vietnam I'm not proud of," Artman told Channel 6. "I saw something, I thought it was a rabbit. I was on an M16 machine gun and I shot at it. They told me 2 days later, you got a confirmed kill now.  So that means it was a person I shot.  Well, at that time, I was only 19-years-old. That kind of messed me up a little bit."

His wife, Connie, said she notices the difference in Artman when he builds the birdhouses.

"It takes things off his mind from war and stuff," Connie Artman said. "So all the vets need to come in and get it done. It helps a lot. It really does, when you see your husband out there working with his hands."

Help Heal Vets will be holding another design competition for vets this month, but with a jewelry box therapeutic craft kit.  They are located at 2508 S 5th St. in Temple.

© 2017 KCEN-TV


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