MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee veteran makes life better one LEGO at a time.
May 4th, many know it is Star Wars Day and celebrate with the saying “May the 4th be with you”.
For Jeff Haagensen, an army veteran, it’s a day that means so much more.
LEGOs weren’t always a part of Jeff Haagensen’s life, in fact he hated them.
“As a kid I absolutely hated LEGOs… hated LEGOs,” says Army veteran Jeff Haagensen.
But now if you take a look at his collection of works, you could tell that they play a pretty big role in his life.
“At one point you couldn’t sit on my couch, use my coffee table, my kitchen table. You couldn’t use the bar top, the kitchen counters, everything was LEGO, ”says Haagensen.
He’s worked with thousands of blocks that have brought him to a happier, healthier place than he was many years ago. Haagensen is an Army veteran who toured several times from 1998 to 2011. After his last tour, he struggled with PTSD and turned to drugs and alcohol, before his life changed in 2015. .
“I thought I was fine, then one weekend a memory came back to Facebook when I was in Afghanistan, and in 24 hours things went clean, sober and happy in the hospital with a back broken as a result of suicide. attempt, ”Haagensen said.
He attempted suicide and luckily survived. He is now in a wheelchair and finds joy and peace in his LEGO building. Although a traumatic event took place in 2015, its story did not end there. He started working with LEGOS while recovering from surgery at Milwaukee VA in 2018 and started his new passion. He said it was a new hobby that occupied his mind.
“It just means pain relief. It’s just a way to deal with it other than alcohol and drugs, like I used to do, ”Haagensen said.
Instead of drugs and alcohol, he turned to LEGOs instead. It is a positive outlet for him to stimulate his brain and keep busy. He built hundreds of them in just three years. His favorites are of course, Star Wars.
As he browses his new exhibit at the War Memorial, he reflects on everything he did and the things he accomplished while building these LEGOs.
He has found a form of therapy that symbolizes that he is putting pieces together for himself, while also building creations that are out of this world.
Would you like to meet Jeff Haagensen and see his exhibition on display? You can check out his work at the War Memorial Center in Milwaukee this week.