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      Hobbies helping heal veterans

      After risking their lives to protect our country, retuning home only presents a new challenge for our nation's veterans readjusting to civilian life.

      "Itâ??s very hard for them to blend back in," said Chuck Lantz, Office of Veteran Affairs Director. "Especially with what they've been experiencing in combat."

      Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder. PTSD affects:

      31 percent of Vietnam Veterans10 percent of Gulf War Veterans11 percent of Afghanistan Veterans20 percent of Iraq Veterans

      However, less than 40 percent seek help. But the ones featured in Saturdayâ??s first-ever Recovery Festival, held at Pine Mountain in Iron Mountain, are fighting back to regain their lives and remove themselves from that statistic.

      "Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a lifelong process," said Vietnam Veteran Lem Genovese. "Deal with it in a positive way rather than a self destructive way."

      "Thatâ??s what this festival is all about," Genovese added. "We're trying to reconnect veterans with that concept."

      In searching for ways to live with PTSD, they turned passions into a mode of recovery.

      "Doing things like this has helped increase my levels of concentration," said Air Force Veteran Tony Phillippe, who suffered from PTSD for 32 years before seeking treatment.

      Phillippe said treatment, combined with crafting Christmas ornaments, is helping him "silence the garbage" he says goes on in his head.

      For these veterans, emotional scars may always be present, but their new hobbies were crucial in closing the wounds on their journey to recovery.

      For veterans in search of help, call either:

      The Crisis line 1-800-273-8255 or Karen at VA Recovery Coordinator at 1-800-215-8262 ext. 32777.ã??