Blind Ex-Marine Woodworker Reclaims Skills

By Wade Vonasek | Posted: 06/07/2013 12:22PM

 

Lieutenant Tim Fallon’s journey in woodworking has not followed a standard trajectory, taking him from a childhood in New Jersey, to a platoon leadership in Afghanistan, to his current life in Maryland where he resides with his wife Sarah. Fallon is also unique in the fact that he is a blind woodworker.

Fallon grew up in the town of Long Valley, NJ, where the influence of his father’s strong work ethic and the attitudes and interests of his maternal grandfather and uncles greatly affected him. Much time was spent in the basement with his grandfather learning the art of woodworking. Fallon was taught about tools and their functions, as well as different species of wood and the idea to view them as a medium for creation.

After graduating college in 2008, Fallon entered the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, VA, followed by attendance at The Basic School and the Infantry Officer’s Course. At the end of 2009, he reported to 2d Battalion, 9th Marines as 1st Platoon Commander, Fox Company. Fallon trained with Fox Company for nearly six months to prepare for its difficult combat deployment to Afghanistan. In 2010, the battalion deployed and was assigned to a remote patrol base in the city of Marjah, Helmand Province, where it carried out its combat operations.

The platoon saw a large volume of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and enemy units, and on November 18, 2010, then Second Lieutenant Fallon was caught in an IED strike and lost his sight. He was sent from the field to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, where he underwent surgery and recovery. He was then sent to the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital in the Chicago, IL, area for more advanced blind rehabilitation to help him adapt to his new loss of vision.

A New Challenge to an Old Passion

Fallon knew that because of changes brought on by his new condition there would be numerous things he would no longer be able to do, and he assumed the art of woodworking was one of them.  But then he was introduced to blind woodworking.

He was apprehensive he would face injury, but he also saw this as an opportunity he should not ignore. His instructors at the Hines Blind Center in Illinois re-taught him each machine in a well-stocked shop. Fallon discovered that blind woodworking is not so different from sighted woodworking, only requiring more patience, thought, and extra safety steps.

Fallon says that he deeply enjoys bowl turning, but likes to make the blanks himself from scratch. He also is partial to home improvement projects, refurbishing furniture and furniture making. He would like to take a crack at wooden boat building in the future as well.

With a Little Help from Friends

The website thepatriotwoodworker.com started a page for Fallon. The page was designed to be a place for him and his woodworking friends to unite and assist him in putting together a shop in his two-car garage at his new home.

Fallon compiled a list of needs for his new shop and the website put out the word that a woodworking Marine “needs a little hand up, not a hand out. He has paid his dues. It's our turn to pay him back.” The response has been overwhelming, with companies and individuals stepping up to help the wounded warrior. Laguna Tools, in particular, donated a 14" bandsaw, a jointer/planer combo machine and a dust collector. 

 

About the Author

Wade Vonasek

Wade Vonasek

Wade Vonasek is a freelance writer and editor, with nearly 10 years experience writing about the woodworking industry. He lives and works in Bristol, WI, and can be reached at wvonasek@gmail.com

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