My father was a two war veteran.
He was sixteen when Pearl Harbor was raided by the Japanese. He ran away from home, lied about his age, and joined the navy the next day.
After WWII, he attended the California Maritime Academy. Then he rejoined civilian life.
He was recalled to active duty for Korea.
I don’t know what he did during either of those wars. He would talk about the boredom of shipboard life, the pranks he and his shipmates pulled on one another, the time when the only film they had to watch for six long months was State Fair. After a while, they turned off the sound and members of the crew played the different parts. The pig was considered the absolute plum role.
One day when I was about ten or so, I asked him why he wore that big, bushy walrusesque moustache. He just gruffly said ‘I can’t shave it off.’
I’d never looked carefully before, but that day I finally saw the huge, welty scar that ran the complete vertical length of his upper lip on one side. I asked him what happened. All he would tell me was it happened while he was in the navy. No year, no battle, no accident, not even which war.
Ultimately, my father’s war wound was relatively minor. Once the damage had been repaired, he could eat, talk, and live just fine. The worst remnants were a nasty scar and an inability to shave off his moustache. I think the emotional scars went deeper, but he was not only able to cope with civilian life, he thrived. He worked hard at a job protecting others (he was a safety inspector for boilers and pressure vessels for the state of California), married happily and raised three kids, supported my mother when she ran for school board, and supported her work there when she won. He helped restore antique trains for the railroad museum in Sacramento, lead a Boy Scout troop for twelve years, and began a million home improvement projects. I think he actually finished three.
Dad was one of the lucky ones.
But every day there are veterans who are not as lucky as he was. Ones who come home severely injured, both in body and in mind. Ones who need a lot of help to recover, and to learn to live with lifelong disabilities.
VA hospitals across the country work to heal the sick and the wounded. But there are crafty volunteers who help out, too. Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) is a group that works to provide crafts kits and projects to wounded veterans at more than 300 hospitals around the country.
Working to create suncatchers, leather goods, plastic models, latch-hook rugs, and other craft projects provided by HHV, veterans can improve motor function, relieve stress, and build memory and concentration.
They also provide Craft Care Specialists who recommend what craft kit might be appropriate for each patient, and help provide instruction as well as encouragement.
When a study was done of the benefits of this program, 89.6% of clients reported that they felt craft therapy helped them improve or maintain their physical capabilities. 98.6% filled out and sent the thank you postcards attached to each project kit.
Crafts are good for people. Wounded veterans need help to recover.
I think this is a program my father – the wounded two war veteran – would have approved highly.