CABOT, Ark. – Like so many veterans, a retired Cabot Army first lieutenant struggled to find his footing in the civilian world.
He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and for ten years struggled to find meaningful work.
Everything changed when he plugged in a table saw.
Kyle Cox, 36, of Cabot enjoys working with his tattooed hands.
“It’s just me here and I don’t have to worry about anyone or anything else going on,” Cox said.
The self-taught woodworker operates Cox Custom Woodworks, specializing in custom hideout furniture, cutting boards and home decor.
“It definitely boosts your endorphins when you get that perfect joint,” Cox said.
But the road to this know-how has been hard won.
“I was struggling to live a normal life,” Cox said.
Cox served in the U.S. Army and Arkansas National Guard for nearly ten years. He’s seen his fair share of “out there.”
“My first deployment, I was stationed in Taji, Iraq,” Cox said. “On my second deployment, I was an infantry squad leader. We brought supplies from Jordan to Fallujah, places like that.
When he retired in 2012, he held many different positions.
“I worked as a tattoo apprentice and piercer, I worked as a bouncer at a bar,” Cox said.
Doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
“I just couldn’t keep a job,” he said.
Above all, he struggled to understand his place in the civilian world.
“And I really couldn’t find one thing that I fit in with,” Cox said. “I had to quit my job for mental health reasons, I focused on that a bit. The little things I couldn’t handle were a thing of the past, I was dealing with insane stressors.
It would take a decade of jumping from one meaningless job to another for Kyle to finally find his passion.
“It’s been so therapeutic for me,” Cox said. “It helps me feel like I’m contributing to my family.”
Something about chopping a piece of poplar on a table saw gives Kyle a peace and purpose he hasn’t felt in years.
“It’s just different to have something I made with my hands that I can see and hold,” he said. “And when I’m done with the day, I have something tangible that I’m proud of.”
Cox said woodworking taught him how to deal with things.
“You can fix anything,” he said.
For Kyle, this is the answer.
“I’m busy, I have a goal,” he said. “My children can be proud that I go to work every day.”
Cox wants other struggling veterans to know they can find their purpose, too.
“There are a lot of things out there, organizations and people who want to help you,” he said. “There are people who want you to succeed. »
Like an old piece of pine, dust left over from trauma can become a thing of beauty.
“You take something ugly, an ugly piece of wood and send it through a planer, and it turns into something amazing,” Cox said. “It’s been a lifesaver, really.”
A grant awarded to Kyle through the Semper Fi & America’s Fund and the Home Depot Foundation helped him turn his hobby into a business.