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San Diego Marine veteran with brain injury starts business to empower others

Mike Andela
Posted at 1:20 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 21:39:09-04

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - After suffering a traumatic brain injury, a local veteran started a woodworking business to build back his confidence and spread it to others.

Mike Andela was once an explosives technician. The former marine served multiple combat missions in the Middle East.

"I had a few really big hits in 2011. IEDs went off really close," he told ABC 10News.

There were several concussions and a traumatic brain injury that still affect him.

"[I have] memory loss and dizziness. I have frequent migraines. [Sometimes] two, three, four, or five days a week. It's all according to how the week is going," Andela added.

Transitioning home to civilian life was a struggle. He said that a traditional nine-to-five job was not an option for him because of the headaches. The veteran who once took apart explosives needed to rebuild his identity.

The Semper Fi & America's Fund's Apprenticeship Program then gave him the tools that he needed.

"My wife actually came up with the idea [that] we start a workshop and get ladies, men, and couples in here," he said.

They opened Coastal Sign Co. in Oceanside where woodworkers can turn concepts into creations.

"Women will come in here who've never touched a hammer before in their lives and they'll use power tools, and they leave here with so much confidence. It's fun," said Andela.

The business has also given him a second chance by restoring his courage through craft.

The Semper Fi & America's Fund states that it helps service members reintegrate into the community through short-term vocational education and apprenticeships. More information can be found at