Local veterans find healing through wood-craft

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LA JOLLA, Calif - A group of local veterans are making art out of old pieces of wood in the name of therapy.

“This keeps me young,” said retired army general Tom Lightner as he worked to craft a vase out of a piece of wood.

Lightner shares the hobby with several fellow veterans through the “turnaround for veterans” program.

“We have found several of our veterans, once they learn the skill of wood turning.... Its builds their confidence. They build talents and skills in something they never envisioned they could do,” said Lightner.

They craft beautiful items like bowls, pens and vases.

Most of the veterans in the group are dealing with issues like posttraumatic stress disorder and turning wood helps them get through it.

“I have had veterans tell me that after turning a pen that this is the first time in months my hands have not been trembling,” said veteran Fred B. Thompson.

The program began at the Navy Medical Center in San Diego a few years ago and has since expanded to three locations.

“Some of the veterans have missing limbs and its very interesting to see them turn a pin with a missing arm,” said Thompson.

For their latest project, the group has been using recycled Torrey Pines; the same tress chopped down recently due to a beetle infection.

Each finished item is dated and signed by the veteran who made it.

“To see them smile again, its tremendously rewarding,” said Lightner.

The items are sold at the Torrey Pines State Reserve Gift shop. Proceeds go towards the “Wounded Veterans” association.