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Lebanon VA Medical Center

 

Carving Out Peace

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Mark White proudly displays his woodworking pieces on a table with foliage in the background.

One piece at a time, Marine Corps Veteran Mark White has carved out a personal place of peace.

By Douglas Etter
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finding peace is sometimes difficult for Veterans.  The stress of long deployments far from home, the need for constant vigilance and the perpetual uncertainty of one’s safety--slowly gnaw away at a person.  Transitioning out of the service, sometimes creates more stress for Veterans and finding peace--a real and lasting peace can be difficult.  Mark White knows all about this.  He joined the Marine Corps after dropping out of his sophomore year of high school.  His father, who had made a career of the Air Force, signed the papers so his son could enlist.  He hoped it would straighten the boy out, and it did!  Although he had had a few brushes with the law, Mark states, “Marine Corps boot camp turned my life around.”  He learned discipline, pride and accountability.

Unfortunately, when Mark left the Corps, he found himself in unfamiliar surroundings.  He didn’t have the structure so many service members come to appreciate.  He bounced around between New Orleans and New England. Lots of things didn’t make sense on the outside and he began to wrestle with some difficult personal demons until he moved to Pennsylvania where he met a fellow Veteran, a master wood carver, who fanned the flames of Mark’s life-long interest in woodworking.  The old World War II Vet taught Mark how to express himself with his knives and a block of wood.  He helped him to open his creative and artistic side.

The former private turned master carver, who uses no electrical tools in his work, says that, “carving helps me find peace and quiet.  It allows me to concentrate and focus.  And it releases the anger I sometimes feel.  It takes about a full day to finish a single piece but while I’m there, while I’m working on whatever the outdoors inspire me to create, I find peace and calm.”

Mark, who is now a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, also credits the Lebanon VA and its dedicated staff for helping him to approach life with a better outlook.  “The VA taught me how to be independent and some of the retired employees taught me more about carving.  I am very grateful to them and everyone at Lebanon.”