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Indiana chainsaw artist carving monument for heroes, civilians with PTSD

MILAN, Ind. (WISH) — An Indiana non-profit is creating a 14-foot tall monument to honor military heroes, law enforcement officers, first responders and their families.Steve Gore, a chainsaw artist and founder of Chainsaws for Charity, also seeks to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by touring the nation with the sculpture, dubbed the “American First Responders Memorial Monument.” “Wood has a natural warmth to it,” he explained. “You add the colors, the paint and the glitter and it turns into something very unique.”Gore began carving the three-paneled wood tribute two years ago and described it as a piece of “living” art. Dozens of veterans, officers and fire fighters have sent him badges to add to the monument; others have visited his workshop in Milan to add their signatures to the wood.“It’s probably the most powerful part of the monument,” he said, pointing to the names and messages of gratitude written above his engraving of the World Trade Center. “It was never designed that way. It was just a way for people to become part of it.”Gore urged people to also become part of the growing conversation about the challenges of overcoming – or living with – PTSD.The condition affects nearly 25 million Americans at any given time, according to data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Symptoms include nightmares, unwanted memories of trauma, avoidance of situations associated with the traumatic event, heightened reactions, severe anxiety, mistrust, insomnia, emotional detachment and depression.The condition – once called “shell shock” and “battle fatigue” – is often associated with combat veterans but can affect civilians of all ages, genders, incomes and lifestyles, according to psychiatrists. Individuals can develop symptoms after experiencing traumatic non-military events, including domestic abuse and violence, emotional abuse and neglect, natural disasters, rape and sexual assault, crime, violence, accidents and loss of relatives or close friends.Gore said he became depressed and began his own years-long battle with non-combat PTSD after surviving a murder attempt in 2009.“PTSD is one of the most horrible afflictions out there,” he told 24-Hour News 8. “It’s very hard for us to talk about it. It’s very hard for us to communicate what goes on in the mind.”Battling the condition as a civilian brought unique challenges, he added.“It’s impossible,” said Gore. “We feel invisible. We can have all the symptoms. We can have all the complications. [But we have] none of the recognition, nor respect.” He plans to speak with others struggling with PTSD symptoms about treatment options, coping techniques and the importance of addressing loneliness during his national tour with the completed monument. “What I really want to do is get you thinking, ‘Wow, PTSD is something we really need to do something about,’” he said.