LivingUS War Hero Becomes First One-Armed Professional Bowl Turner

US War Hero Becomes First One-Armed Professional Bowl Turner

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Combat Veteran David Sterling earned a Purple Heart for wounds received in the line of duty and a Silver Star for valorous actions during his heroic service to the US Army, but he lost something significant during his service in Iraq. David was injured by a rocket propelled grenade, which took most of his right arm. As horrific as his physical injury was, it ran much deeper.

David explains “Since my early childhood, I was a sketch artist, and art has always been a deeply important aspect of my life. Without my dominant hand, I found it impossible to return to my art in a meaningful way. This inability to express myself artistically added to the physical and emotional trauma that I experienced on a daily basis. Bottom line; without my art, I was struggling”

Then, in 2021 David applied for a program called VetsTurn that provides selected US combat veterans with the necessary tools, supplies, education and support to use woodturning as therapy for PTSD.

A member of the VetsTurn program selection committee said “We have limited resources and a very large demand, so we have to choose carefully. Candidly, we weren’t sure that someone with one arm could handle the physical demands of woodturning, which many people find challenging with two intact arms. But David’s passion and determination were clear and compelling, so we selected him as one of six recipients in 2021. He has proven to be a great choice in every respect. Not only has he quickly mastered woodturning, but his passion for the craft is contagious among the members in the VetsTurn community.”

After turning over 300 wooden bowls on the mid-sized Laguna lathe that he received from the VetsTurn program, he decided to scale up his operation and start a business. To increase his production and allow him to turn larger bowls, he upgraded his tools to include a Laguna Revo 1836 professional class lathe. David said “I turn 8-10 hours every day, so having a more powerful smooth running machine will allow me to increase my productivity with less fatigue.”

David currently sells his work through Clock Tower Mercantile in Iola, Kansas, and his work will also soon be featured at Go Poppy Designs which is a Chicago based retailer with two locations. He will also sell on-line via the Iron Hand Woodworks Facebook page, and plans to explore other sales outlets as his business evolves.

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