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VFW Names Elk Bladesmith As #StillServingHero

Screenshot from KSPS

Veterans of Foreign Wars, the VFW, is honoring a northeast Washington man for his community service after his active duty ended.

Ben Hayhurst’s contribution is related to helping first responders who struggle with mental health issues.Hayhurst from Elk, Washington has come a long way since 2004, when he returned from the Iraq War with physical and mental injuries. He’s now considered disabled. While working through those injuries, he took up knife making as a therapeutic activity.

We’ve told his story and so has KSPS Public Television.

“Part of the fun is taking a piece of steel and pushing it where you want it to go and making it into what you want," Hayhurst said in the television program.

“Not long ago, a friend and Marine veteran, along with a small group of New York City firefighters challenged Ben with a new mission, an idea based on an oath called ‘The Spartan Pledge’ and a sword made from World Trade Center steel, created to bring attention to the epidemic of military veterans taking their own lives,” said the program's narrator.

Instead of a sword, Hayhurst made a small ax. It was made as a symbol for first responders who, at special ceremonies, would also recite “The Spartan Pledge.” “I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.”

Credit Courtesy of Veterans of Foreign Wars

Hayhurst’s ax is now with firefighters in New York and available to travel around the country. That’s why the VFW is recognizing him as a Still Serving Hero.

“I think it’s awesome, especially because of the project that it was involved in, which was making a fire axe out of steel from the World Trade Center and from an axe used on Ground Zero to help push the cause of helping with first responders’ mental health. I take a lot of pride in that and I think it’s really cool," Hayhurst said.

This attention, he says, is nice, but the best part is it fills an internal hole and brings his life meaning.

“There’s an intense satisfaction in serving and helping other people. A lot of people struggle when they get out of the military because they lose that feeling, so for me it feels great just to get that feeling back and to be involved in cool projects and stuff," he said.

Eventually, post-Covid, Hayhurst hopes to be able to travel with the ax and talk with people who share that sense of service. For now, he’ll continue making knives, giving some away and selling others.