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Iraq vet opens Carolina shop with his wife

In 2015, after 15 years of service and four deployments with the U.S. Marines, Gunnery Sergeant Michael “Brien” Kirkpatrick of Swansboro, N.C., retired from the military to turn his woodworking hobby into a business. He and his wife opened Build it Right Woodworking and began selling niche items such as handcrafted cutting boards made from exotic woods, flag cases and other memorabilia.

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“We’re just small-town people. The cool thing about this is I can spend a lot more time with my family. And who doesn’t like woodworking? I get to partake in making the types of things that are thousands of years old and I’m lucky enough to have people purchase them and put them in their homes. I’m just elated to be able to do it,” Kirkpatrick says.

He’s recently added kitchen islands, home remodels and boat furniture to his product offerings, thanks to a generous machinery donation from Hope For the Warriors, a non-profit for post-military personnel who have sustained physical or psychological wounds in the line of duty. In 2005, while deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, Kirkpatrick was riding in a Humvee attacked with an improvised explosive device. The blast caused the vehicle to split in half.

At first, Kirkpatrick declined help from the program, believing there were other candidates with bigger needs. But his desire to make a living from woodworking prevailed, netting about $15,000 worth of tools and machinery, including a Grizzly sliding table saw, jointer, sander, lathe, dust collector and more.

Kirkpatrick says he’s very thankful for the generosity. But as a proud business owner, he prefers to divert attention from his injuries and focus on his woodworking skills.

“I try to stay away from discussing PTSD and all of the stigmas with veterans. I don’t want to be seen as a victim and I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I want them to buy my work because of the craftsmanship and authenticity behind it. That is what makes sense,” Kirkpatrick says.

Kirkpatrick was raised in Oklahoma and helped his dad with woodworking projects for their home. He never imagined building on those skills as a career.

“This was never in the cards,” he says. “This new equipment opened up new capabilities to do certain things. Without it, I would never have been able to take on a lot of the jobs that I have right now because I wouldn’t have had the capability. The generosity of [Hope for the Warriors] bringing this to help us has made the transition to civilian life much easier, for sure.”

For more about Kirkpatrick’s business, visit

This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue.

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