What’s Working: Knife-making classes help veterans heal

What's Working

DAPHNE, Ala. (WKRG) — In today’s What’s Working, a local organization is offering a unique form of therapy for veterans. It allows them to sharpen their skills while developing a new hobby.

Jerry Gardner of Daphne owns The Blacksmith Experience. He also has started a non-profit called Forging a Difference, where veterans learn to blacksmith/forge their own items as a form of therapy. He says most veterans enjoy making knives.

“There is an opportunity something as simple as getting the aggression out. It’s very physical while engaging with your mind, and building/constructing something,” Gardner said.

Using steel heated to over 2,000 degrees, veterans are learning how to make knives. From hammering to grinding, the process takes grit. Veteran JD Drinkard has a traumatic brain injury and has lost the use of his legs. He was injured in Iraq. He met Gardner through one of the blacksmith classes. He enjoys the camaraderie of being with other veterans.

“It’s great being able to have the camaraderie with people being able to relate to what I’m going through. Sometimes, we don’t even have to talk about what’s going on, but I like being around other people who understand,” Drinkard said.

Gardner says many of the veterans who take his classes have PTSD.

Marine veteran Jason Henderson enjoys the classes and being able to help others who have experienced some type of trauma. He also likes the fine details of making a knife because it forces you to concentrate on the task at hand.

“It is therapeutic. You can’t worry about today or yesterday. You aren’t worried about the future. It is what is happening right now at this moment,” Henderson said.

Gardner wants to invite the public to an event on Saturday, Dec. 4, at the USS Alabama. It’s called the “Knife-Making Grudge Match.” It involves several of the former champions on the “Forged in Fire” hit Netflix/History Channel show. It is happening from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s $5 per person. For more information, click here.

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