OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – An Overland Park Army veteran, injured in a helicopter crash, has turned the traumatic brain injury and resulting disabilities he suffered into art.
Retired Staff Sergeant Zeke Crozier is “Handy-Cappin” bottle caps and raising money for local organizations.
They are simple items most of us throw away, but Zeke Crozier turns those bottle caps into art.
“Fold the caps however they are supposed to go,” Crozier demonstrates.
He makes custom commissioned pieces for organizations to sell at auction, sometimes going for much as $10,000.
For Crozier it’s not just about sharing his art, but also sharing his story. There’s a reason his studio is filled with American Flags.
Crozier was inside this Chinook helicopter when it went down in Afghanistan in 2011.
He suffered catastrophic injuries and a traumatic brain injury, but eventually took his first steps.
“I had the mentality I wasn’t going to give up, I was a fighter and I had goals in life that’s all I knew had to get better,” he said.
But he didn’t know what life had in store for him until friends camping started to put bottle caps on a table to keep them off the ground.
“I went over to smash a bottle cap and I missed because of my motor skills. It really frustrated me, so I stood there and tried to hit the cap over and over again,” he recalled.
Seven hundred pounds of collected bottle caps and 500 or so creations later, Crozier now has an LLC he calls Handy-Cappin. He’s changed his methods, covering the art with resin to seal it, ordering mostly custom bottle caps and he now seldom uses a mallet. But the reasons behind walking into his studio are the same.
“This is my purpose this is my therapy,” he said.
He admits he still doesn’t really like talking about the crash that nearly took his life, but does it gladly at events supporting veterans, people with disabilities or any worthwhile cause or organization.
“That’s what we all want is to feel like we’re understood by other people and people care,” Crozier said.
He’s overcome a lot, but said he still faces adversity.
“I’ve got nerve damage and numbness in my left so my finger tips are numb.”
But he hopes his art and his story inspire others to face whatever challenges are facing them with renewed hope for the future.
“I’ll never be what I was before, but I can be better than that now by helping other people, and that’s how I heal,” Crozier said.