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Bullets to BRICKS aims to help veterans on their road to recovery through LEGOs

Jacob Skriba posing with one of his favorite sets
Posted at 8:41 PM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 01:18:16-05

MASON, Mich. — You can build just about anything with LEGOs. From popular cars all the way to spaceships. But one mid-Michigan veteran is taking it a step further. He's using LEGOS as a way to build support and help veterans heal from physical and psychological injuries.

Mason resident Jacob Skriba is an army veteran with about four years of service and one combat deployment overseas.

A display of the Skriba family's military photos
A display of the Skriba family's military photos

In August 2011 Skriba and his team were hit with an explosively formed projectile which is a type of improvised explosive device or roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq. And then, 24 hours later they were hit with a traditional improvised explosive device which left Skriba seriously injured and facing a tough road ahead.

Jacob Skriba
Jacob Skriba

"I'm 100% Disabled Veteran, PNT, that means permanently and totally. I suffer from things such as nerve injuries, head injuries, PTSD, and other social disorders, mental disorders, and physical disorders," Skriba said.

He also suffers from a traumatic brain injury.

"I had a stroke back in 2017, or 18. I do believe and that led to a lot of cognitive impairments. Such as so I lost feeling and a lot of function in my left arm and my right leg, then I lost hearing in an ear. So, I've always struggled since then," Skriba said.

But one thing he has found comfort in is his LEGO hobby. From building things from a Nintendo game system to a NASA Apollo Saturn V Rocket. He notices things in his life have changed. Like improvement in his cognitive functioning.

Old television LEGO set
Old television LEGO set

"I'm working with my fingers, you know, making brain finger connections, rebuilding those neural pathways, and firing those neurotransmitters, right? The change just from that just from a repetitive thing like that is amazing," Skriba said.

So amazing that he wanted to use LEGOs to help other veterans. So, he created Bullets to BRICKS. A LEGO user group for military veterans.

"Bullets, to bricks, is our journey," Skriba said. "We're coming from the military, a lot of us and, we've seen and done things that most people haven't."

Skriba showing off NASA set
Skriba showing off NASA set

Bullets to BRICKS provides a safe and private space for Veterans not only in Michigan but around the world. They are able to share their experiences, talk about issues, and brag and show off their latest LEGO sets.

"It's just a fun thing all around. You feel good about it. You make friends. You learn life lessons. and you can build something beautiful that you can sit on the shelf and say hey I built that," Skriba said. "There's just so many ways it can be successful and therapeutic."

He also runs a program called Sets for Vets. He's trying to get as many LEGO sets into the hands of as many veterans as he possibly can for free.

"If you're a member of bullets to bricks, and you're a veteran or spouse of a veteran, you are automatically entered for our monthly drawings," Skriba said.

November's winner is Veteran Jim Bennett. He says when he has LEGOs in his hands he feels like he has a purpose.

Skriba congratulating Jim Bennett for being November's winner
Skriba congratulation Jim Bennett for being November's winner

"There's a direction that you can go to and it's really nice to be able to focus on something," Bennett said. "Whether it's a bright shiny object, a squirrel, or some kind of a memory or something like that, it's very difficult for me to focus, and I often get distracted, and working with the bricks helps me focus."

Bennett has over 20 years of service with the Michigan National Guard. Including disaster response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He also has had two deployments overseas to the Middle East and served in Kuwait with Skriba.

"You don't have to talk it out. You can just simply work it out with the bricks and solve any type of situation. You can really calm down with any emotions that you are feeling and then you can also share some accomplishments that you have and say hey I built that. That's a really empowering feeling to have," Bennett said.

Bullets to BRICKS is still building its foundation. But Skriba has big plans for the future. He's hoping to increase his giveaways and start in-person sessions.

"This started off as just a hobby. But as each day goes on, comes a little bit more responsibility," Skriba said. "I'm very honored that they would allow me to be able to be a part of their recovery to be a part of their lives and in to trust me."

Bullets to BRICKS is always accepting donations of LEGO sets and other donations. If you would like to help the movement. Visit their Facebook page.

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Lauren Shields

Lauren Shields

8:25 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Lauren Shields