Veterans Voices: Army veteran healing by working with his hands

Veterans Voice

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It was 2012. Chris Ouzts was serving with his Army unit in the southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar. His armored vehicle hit an IED.  

“I came up off the seat, and my right shoulder got hung up in the door handle. My body going forward, my arm staying there, it pulled my arm nearly out of socket,” Ouzts said. “I also slammed my knee against our navigation screen.”

There was head injury, too. Ouzts has three, non-functioning black spots on his brain. He came home, fought through it, and begged for another deployment. But with his body breaking down, he was medically discharged after eight years in the Army. 

That first year out was tough.

“It’s when you’re sitting at home by yourself, and there’s no one around, and you’re in pain, you don’t want to get up off the couch,” Ouzts said. “It was just killing me inside.”

Until he got outside and literally re-discovered the tools he already had to make life better.

“Once I got out of the military I got kind of bored, and I wasn’t in a very good place. I had a whole bunch of carpentry tools that I’d accumulated over the years. So I just decided I’m gonna throw them in the bed of my truck, put an ad on Craigslist,” said Ouzts.

That one ad led to the first job for C and C Renovations, his own contracting company. And in two years, he’s only had three weeks without work.  

“This is just kinda one of those things where we started basically to keep me entertained and keep me busy, and it turned into something a whole lot bigger,” Ouzts said. “I’ve got people calling me almost daily.  And I just never would have expected it to turn out this way.

For Ouzts, his contracting work is his therapy. His purpose in life.

“That was my biggest thing. I had no purpose sitting on the couch drinking beer at noon,” Ouzts said. “I had no purpose to wake up. I didn’t want to wake up. I didn’t go to sleep. Whenever I finally did go to sleep, I couldn’t find a reason to get up out of bed the next day.

Now, it’s the next job that gets him going every day. The hands that once served his country in a war zone now serve to make a living for his family.

“Whenever I get on to a job site, and I work all day and I leave, I leave seeing what changed every day,” Ouzts said. “I put this floor down yesterday.  And I left knowing that I’d accomplished something and it’s gonna look beautiful at the end of the day.”

Ouzts story took a dramatic and unexpected turn last year. It surrounded the death of a good friend who served with him in the Army, and a new friendship with another veteran Ouzts had never met. You’ll be touched by what happened when their lives crossed paths with each other.

Watch Dan’s special program, “Veterans Voices,” airing on NewsChannel 9 on Thursday, November 7th at 7 p.m.  

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