ROSWELL, Ga. – When soldiers return from the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, for many of them, adjusting back to normal life can be a trial. For those who were injured, especially with brain injuries, coming back into civilian life can be difficult.
The Shepherd Center of Atlanta specializes in brain injuries and has a special rehabilitation program for soldiers. Part of that program is extensive outpatient therapy, getting the patients busy and out in the community they will be returning to.
“It’s a big change, coming back to the civilian world,” said Corissa Callahan, a psychologist at the Shepherd Center. “Sometimes, due to their injuries, [veterans] can’t do what they used to do.”
Callahan and her colleagues work with the veterans not just on their physical therapy but also their mental health, by getting them active.
“Some guys who come to us, they haven’t left their house in three or five years,” she said. “We slowly reintegrate them into the community. More than anything, they are interacting with a normal guy in the community.”
Getting them back out into the community is a hard task, but it is helped by keeping the soldiers busy.
The activities can improve memory, attention, concentration and focus as well as improving the soldiers’ socialization. Glass blowing, swimming, fly fishing and woodworking are all activities the soldiers are exposed to.
“Anything with their hands,” Callahan explained.
The Framing Studio, of Roswell, hosted a group of Shepherd Center veterans Jan. 23 to learn how to make their own picture frames.
For owner Jan Cutini, making the frames is a straightforward, if laborious process.
First, know what you want to frame – it can be a photo, a painting or anything else, really; one person framed a pair of tap shoes in a shadow box.
From there, the frame pieces have to be measured, cut and assembled using glue and staples. Then a piece of glass is cut to fit and placed in the frame. Then the picture is put in and a matte is stapled onto the back.
“It’s simple, but there are a lot of little steps,” Cutini said as he guided each veteran through the steps.
At the end of the morning, each veteran had his own photo in his own frame.
Cutini said he hoped to have the veterans visit his shop once a month.
“What better way to give back to our veterans than with a little time and energy?” Cutini asked.
Veteran Austin Davis had a photo of himself and a war buddy in Iraq. From Knoxville, Tenn., he served in the Marines for two-and-a-half years and has been with the Shepherd Center for only a few weeks.
Having a love of photography, he said he would take pictures of whatever caught his eye. Learning how to frame them is a useful skill to have.
“This is fun,” said Davis. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
Joe Languet framed a photo of three of his dogs.
“It looks good,” he said as he was finishing the frame. “It’s nice having all the tools nearby. It makes it easy.”
Languet was a builder in Maine before he served for 14 years in the Marines and the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. As he put it, he was “blown up too many times,” and sought help at the Shepherd Center.
“I think every soldier who’s been injured should go through a program like this,” he said. “This is getting us back into doing things again.”
The importance of such tasks was not lost of Languet.
“For a lot of guys, these programs save their lives,” he said.
To learn more about the Shepherd Center, visit them online at www.shepherd.org. For more about The Framing Studio, in Roswell, visit them online at www.theframingstudiollc.com.