‘Sewing Machine Marine’ finds peace, purpose making thousands of masks for fellow veterans

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CHICAGO — Nicholas Robert Stevenson says he developed a deep love of his country and those who serve after joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 2005. 

But after he was injured during his fifth year overseas, the young Marine had to return home a disabled veteran.

“The transitioning process was not easy for me going from the military back to the real world,” Stevenson said. 

As he went in and out of the hospital for multiple back surgeries, he said he was also dealing with PTSD, anxiety and addiction. But one of the things that he found which helped him out most was something you might not expect to see a Marine doing: sewing. 

“When I sew I get that calming feeling,” he said. “I found it just helped.”

Something about the repetitive motion and gentle hum worked like a healing salve for Stevenson.

“When I’m sewing and that motion is going on you don’t feel the pain,” he said.

Later, after he was laid off from his job due to the pandemic the sewing machine became his place of solace. Not too long after it became a new way for him to serve. 

“I’m down at Jesse Brown VA all the time and see these guys and they don’t have masks, and I thought, ‘what can I do?'” he said.

That was the beginning of what would become a massive mask making endeavor. Stevenson collected piles of fabrics and a month later he had sewn over 500 patriotic masks for his fellow vets.

“You could go down to the VA and see everyone wearing my masks,” he said. 

That’s how he earned his new nickname: the “Sewing Machine Marine.”

To date, he has made over 3,000 masks at his small sewing table.

“You know I’m just one person… so I just do my little bit to honor the vets that I know and that I’ve lost,” he said.

The battle-tested Marine is still serving our country the one way he can.

“It does make me feel good down deep inside,” he said. “Jesse Brown VA saved my life and I was able to give back by making these masks.”

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