Hammering out troubles is boon for military vets

Rhino and Ravens Forge is Elizabeth blacksmith shop with a mission

Geraldine Smith
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 10/4/19

Nic Meyer, owner of Rhino and Ravens Forge in Elizabeth, served his country for 22 years in special operations, deploying to Afghanistan three times alone. He and his company spent most of their time …

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Hammering out troubles is boon for military vets

Rhino and Ravens Forge is Elizabeth blacksmith shop with a mission

Posted

Nic Meyer, owner of Rhino and Ravens Forge in Elizabeth, served his country for 22 years in special operations, deploying to Afghanistan three times alone. He and his company spent most of their time training and interacting with local governments, living on the economy and building networks for intelligence gathering.

He says, “We lived the culture, slept, ate and trained in the communities. Most soldiers were restricted to bases with short excursions into the communities and our short excursions were back to the bases. “

Within the scope of their missions they dressed like locals and were accepted as locals.

Nic retired in 2012 and began working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and found the job became a passion. He is currently a field consultant for the VA, teaching patients to cope with the challenges of returning home and advising facilities on how they can improve services for veterans.

He admits: “Trying to promote change is a slow process because of the size of the organization, but things are beginning to change, very slowly.”

As an instrument of change himself, Nic owns Rhinos and Ravens Forge, a blacksmith shop where he promotes socialization and camaraderie for returning veterans by providing a space to network and assimilate into the civilian culture.

As he says, “Not everyone has the space and can own a shop for gatherings.”

Nic's main focus is bringing veterans together to work on projects and socialize. He knows firsthand the challenges veterans face returning to civilian life face because he, himself, struggled when he retired in 2012, having been with the same group of seven men for years. A group with whom he deployed, trained and became intimate friends with their families — and he suddenly found himself alone. The camaraderie of simply having someone to sit and discuss experiences with or being able to unload as he transitioned from the military brotherhood was absent. He recognized that the lack of a supportive network was the main stumbling block for returning veterans.

Nic was only 21 when he joined the Army and it became his life and his family, so when he retired, he realized he had no hobbies and nothing to keep him focused on the present. Exposed to blacksmithing while in the Army, he began to take classes, leading to socializing and reconnecting, which helped ease the loss of brotherhood.

In time Nic recognized it as a means for other veterans to cope and saw that he could be an instrument in that process. On weekends he teaches blacksmith skills in his shop and envisions involving the community with his veteran group. He wants to promote the creation of art for public display or repairing things within the area, such as a lamppost or decorative railings in the festival area in Elizabeth. He is reaching out to chamber of commerce groups and finds they are interested.

Everyone is welcome to join Nic in his shop and forge simple to intricate pieces using scrap metal he accumulates, but it is mainly for veterans. Even if the individual does not wish to participate beyond just hanging out, that is acceptable. Usually during his classes there is a project for the day in what he sees as his forge therapy center because he believes: “Working together can give a sense of camaraderie and a feeling of being connected. They do not even need to talk but being together working, struggling and sweating on a project helps to heal the mind and body.”

He emphasizes: “Leave the cell phones in the car.”

The long-term plan is to renovate part of his shop to allow overnight stays for those working on projects orwho just need that time to connect. There is enough room to have lofts for sleeping, a bathroom, sink and refrigerator and Nic being done for the day, making a meal and sitting out by the firepit. Nic can foresee working on projects during the day and gathering at night out by the firepit after a meal. In the morning, after coffee and breakfast, they would begin work on the projects after reconnecting over dinner and conversation.

He is certain about the idea: “Social events are important in understanding civilian culture.”

He understands the importance of downshifting, controlling the learned hyper-vigilance and being able to sit with your back to the door. Nic sees the victim mentality as the biggest roadblock for a veteran — as he calls it: “The woe is me mindset.” He does point out to veterans that they chose to become soldiers and now it is time to help themselves heal.

Working with them on strategies he emphasizes: “If you can visualize it, you can do it.” He also realizes it took a long time to dial up that hyper-vigilance and may be a behavior you cannot unlearn but mitigate with time.

As for the unique name for his forge: He sees himself the Rhino, which is a big lumbering beast, short-sighted, heavy and constrained to what they can see in their immediate vicinity. Ravens are smart, clever, fast, light and not bound to earth, somewhat ethereal. All of this of exists outside of who and what he is. To Nic, the idea of the yin and yang logo is a reminder to not be so short-sighted, so short-tempered and so involved as to fail to lift up eyes and find balance.

For more information: ​Call 719-930-4684 or find Rhino and Ravens Forge on Facebook.

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