Veterans face myriad stresses. Some have found ways to fight the darkness with art and peace for their souls with creation of beauty. Mine is metal work.
Sculpting takes many forms and is one of the ways that the warrior has turned artisan to rekindle the inner calm that increases resiliency and gives them armor for the struggles they face. I need power, strength, and a way to release my anger. I found that release with a hammer. I turned the war in my mind into a war against the anvil and the metal in between. Somewhere in the noise and clamor I found serenity and comfort.
I began simply enough, a bit of wire, copper, and a couple of hammers, one to be the anvil and the other to work the metal. The desert was my enemy, there were problems all around but as I began to form the simple copper wire to match the image in my mind, the desert went away and the worries went with them.
When I made it home, I began to expand both my tools and my skills and took on greater challenges. I see what I made in the beginning and the things I craft now and realize that inside us all is beauty that takes work to bring out.
I had to sweat in the heat of the forge and the effort of the work and that exertion allowed me to sleep when nothing else would, it kept me from whiskey and when I was done, I had something that I made with my hands that could remind me of the peace I found in the creation.
The glow of molten metal burned my eyes and the external fire eased and absorbed the internal one. The rage was surrendered to the heat as I imposed my will on the metal before me and one hammer blow at a time I let go and became at one with the world, ignoring it, yet part of it.
If I had not worked the metal, I might have lost my life. Every day, I look about me and I see each moment captured in time as a milestone of my internal success and a reward of peace.
Leonard O. Benton is retired from active duty military service with 24 years and two combat deployments to Iraq. He left the Regular Army after 10 years and became a National Guard Recruiter for his first tour in the AGR program followed by over 10 years in Operations as Force Protection, CBRN and three years as C-IED. He has an Associates degree and is currently working on his Bachelor’s. He is an amateur metal smith and when he is not working or writing he can often be found in his shop pounding away in the attempt to transform a lump of metal into an icon of beauty or function.
His years of operational planning, threat analysis, and a deeply cynical view of our imperfect world leads him to focus on world events and cultural beliefs that tend to cause the most friction and chaos in the world around us. He is a libertarian and he believes in personal freedoms and accountability. The Havok Journal gave him an outlet to express the things he sees wrong in the world and the opportunity to once again provide advice on how to fix it. Leonard can be contacted a firstname.lastname@example.org.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on January 16, 2015.