CABOT, Ark. – Like so many veterans, a retired Army First Lieutenant from Cabot had a hard time finding his place in the civilian world.
He suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and for ten years, struggled to find meaningful work.
That all changed when he plugged in a table saw.
Kyle Cox, 36, of Cabot likes to work with his tattooed hands.
“It’s just me in here and I don’t have to worry about anybody or anything else that’s going on,” Cox said.
The self-taught carpenter operates Cox Custom Woodworks, specializing in custom concealment furniture, cutting boards, and home decor.
“It definitely gets your endorphins going when you get a joint perfect,” Cox said.
But the road to this workmanship was 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 saw his fair share of “over there.”
“My first deployment I was stationed in Taji, Iraq,” Cox said. “My second deployment, I was an infantry squad leader. We ran supplies from Jordan all the way into Fallujah, places like that.”
When he retired in 2012, he went through a lot of different jobs.
“I worked as a tattoo apprentice and a 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.
He struggled most with understanding his place in the civilian world.
“And I really just couldn’t find a thing that I fit into,” Cox said. “I had to leave the job for mental health reasons, kind of focus on that for a little bit. Little things I couldn’t deal with, were in the past, I dealt with insane stressors.”
It would take a decade of hopping from one meaningless job to the next 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 cutting a piece of poplar on a table saw gives Kyle peace and purpose he hasn’t felt in years.
“It’s just different to have something that 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 teaches him how to cope with things.
“You can fix anything,” he said.
For Kyle, this is the answer.
“I’m busy, I have purpose,” he said. “My kids can be proud that I go to work every day.”
Cox wants other struggling veterans to know they can find their purpose again, too.
“There are plenty of things out there, organizations and people that want to help you,” he said. “”There are people out there that want you to succeed.”
Like an old chunk of pine, so, too, can the dust that trauma leaves behind become a thing of beauty.
“You take something that is ugly, an ugly piece of wood and you send it through a planer, and it turns into something incredible,” Cox said. “It’s been a lifesaver, really.”
A grant given to Kyle through the Semper Fi & America’s Fund and the Home Depot Foundation helped him turn his hobby into a business.