BELLEVILLE, W.Va. (WOWK) — Kevin Burkman served our country for more than 25 years and now he has found a different way to serve, by teaching other Veterans the skill of blacksmithing.
A former welder in the U.S. Navy, Burkman worked as a nuclear powerplant component welder from 1987 to 1993. He then joined the army.
“I tell my kids all of the time, that the greatest thing you can do is serve your country,” said Burkman. “When that ends, you need to figure out your niche in life.”
Burkman’s return to civilian life didn’t come naturally to the father of four. He suffered from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
“I left a lot of good people over in Somalia,” explained Burkman.
Burkman credits his son, Carter, with saving his life. “He came to me and said, ‘Dad, you are always yelling, you are always mad,’ and it kind of clicked and I went and sought help.”
The counseling and the therapy helped, but then Burkman returned to something he was good at, something he was comfortable with: welding.
“I always been super creative and metal has always been my favorite because it adds an extra layer of difficulty,” he explained.
Now many of his days are spent in a garage outside of his home. It houses his shop where he spends hours working on his welding, crafting homemade knives and other items.
He also has started teaching welding to other Veterans just like him.
“If they can learn something they can do with their hands, and they can turn something from rust into gold, into something beautiful,” explained Burkman. “It gives many of them a different purpose in life, it definitely saved my life so if I can help just one other person, that’s what I want to do.”
Burkman has become a very accomplished welder, operating a local business sculpting metal. Running the business has turned into a family affair as you will often catch the Burkman kids, and his wife Karla, helping in the shop and at the festivals and fairs where they sell their work.
He is also gaining national attention, appearing on the History Channel’s Forged in Fire. That episode is set to appear later this month, on November 20th.
Earlier this year, he won a national contest. His winning entry in the “Metal My Way” contest was a 6 ½ inch custom knife with an intricate rose handle design. Burkman built the knife as an anniversary gift for a couple in Washington, DC.