CORINTH, Ky. — In a workshop just off the beaten path in Corinth, Kentucky, the grinding sound of a wood planer can be heard as it carefully takes off layers of a wood beam. The tapping sounds of finishing nails being shot into layers of wood pierce the air as the air compressor kicks in to push enough air into the nail gun to get the job done.
Those are the sounds of a woodworking shop focused on more than just the creation of furniture and other things.
“A little more than the sawdust,” Operation Honor founder Joe Montgomery said. “We look at our products with a purpose. We call them perfectly imperfect.”
He’s not a veteran himself, but he sees a need in Northern Kentucky to help veterans in the post-service path toward reintegration. One part of that mission involves the creation of products through woodworking.
“We sell our products with a purpose,” Montgomery said. “So that creates revenues for us, so that makes us kind of unique.”
Veterans involved in Operation Honor have found positive results.
“It’s about getting folks to realize there is another avenue, and they can find happiness,” Air Force veteran Jared Bonvell said.
Bonvell’s life mirrors some other combat veterans whose journey in the service and the return to civilian life is one filled with self-medication combined with multiple prescriptions from the VA Medical Center.
“When I was medically retired in '14, I was drinking a half-gallon of Wild Turkey 101 every two days and on about 13 different medications to include opiates, SSRI, SNRIs muscle relaxers,” Bonvell explained.
His wake-up call was when he was 230 pounds and could barely walk with the help of a cane.
He spent the last part of his military career working for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, with deployments in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Lost a lot of good folks,” he said. “A lot of good folks came home.”
Having hit rock bottom, he made a decision to stop taking medications and reevaluate how he was dealing with his post-traumatic stress and other personal issues tied to his time in the military. He said seeking new medical advice and questioning treatments offered up instead of just saying 'OK' led him down a different path and, eventually, on the doorsteps of Operation Honor.
“The military doesn’t do a great job preparing you for that, but there’s a lot of good folks and organizations like this to help us on the second path,” said Bonvell.
Recently, he helped build several tables for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization.
DAV spokesperson Cody Vanboxel said choosing Operation Honor was an easy choice when deciding where to get some of the new furniture for the headquarters building.
“I think it means a lot more than people realize,” Vanboxel said. “Not only do they contribute to someone’s health — veterans coming through here — not only contribute to their well-being, but it’s a conversation piece. We’re looking forward to people sitting down and pointing it out and saying, 'Yeah, did you know they’re down the road and they did put these together and disabled veterans helped put these together.'"
Now, Montgomery is taking the next step in what’s been a several-year journey to see his dream come to fruition, with blueprints in hand to add to the therapy through woodworking: Patriot’s Landing will combine a woodworking shop with other more crucially needed programs for veterans.
“A lot of them center around healing; a lot of them are helping with substance abuse, depression, PTSD," he said. "We’ve got a health and wellness coach all the way down to 'Are you eating healthy are you taking care of your body?'"
The 9,000-square-foot center will be adjacent to Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North in Williamstown. The timeline to break ground is roughly a year out, but Montgomery said he can’t set a hard date just yet.
Meanwhile, Operation Honor's mission will continue.
“That’s where the never quit comes in," Bonvell said. "They don’t have that opportunity. I want to give everybody the opportunity to never quit. I’ve seen it happen way too many times.”
People interested in finding out more information about Operation Honor can visit their website.
You can also see past reporting on other portions of their mission and the veterans who play a role by clicking here.