A nonprofit in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has found a unique way to support veterans through blacksmithing — an age-old craft using iron and steel.
Steve Hotz founded Black Horse Forge after using blacksmithing to cope with PTSD after serving for almost 17 years in the 325th Regiment of 82nd Airborne Division in the U.S. Army.
“When I came home, my wife said she noticed a difference. She said ‘whatever you did, keep doing it,” he told WTOP.
Hotz said he has seen veterans and active-duty servicemembers transformed by the comfort and support blacksmithing has provided.
A Wounded Warrior Project survey showed that 52% of servicemembers said their mental health declined during the pandemic. That same survey determined that 93% currently live with mental health conditions considered severe.
The nonprofit saw a 200% increase in engagement during the pandemic, according to Hotz, not only among military men and women but civilians as well. Since opening, he has supported more than 11,000 military men and women.
The nonprofit also said that it has seen zero suicides among those they’ve helped.
“I can really put our whole mission in one word and that’s ‘healing.’ If I close the doors right now, I think we’ve had a great success.” he said.
The founder is now hoping to expand into a space where families can join vets, an important part of the healing process while serving the community.
“We hope people reach out to us and we hope to continue,” Hotz said.
You can learn more about Black Horse Forge by visiting their website.