JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – So many have fought for our freedom and given their lives in the process. One local Army veteran is making sure his new business honors every service member lost every single day.
BattleBorn Kustoms, Inc. in Spring Park is a new shop specializing in restoring anything with an engine into something that will breathe new life into the vehicle and person who owns it. And once you step inside, you’ll find this business works to build more than just cars and motorcycles; it builds friendships, even family.
“My experience in the military, it taught me stability in the worst of times. It taught me to stand tall when everything else is falling apart,” said Army veteran Aaron Beverly.
Beverly suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but making someone else’s life better, through the vehicle restoration work he and business partner Dave Olcott do, has been therapy.
“It's hard, but it’s getting easier and easier because not only am I realizing this for me -- but every officer, every soldier, every fireman, every airman -- is a veteran and suffers from this, and I know it,” Beverly explained. “So if we can help them get back to their passion of life through a passion of hot rods, bikes, a paint job, that's what we provide.”
Beverly joined the Army as a weapons specialist and then served during Operation Desert Shield where he earned several combat medals.
“By the time I was done I had been operating A2 Bradleys and M1 Tanks in Iraq. I became a trooper, and I was a front-line operator,” he said.
It was after he did private contracts in Afghanistan, Beverly was diagnosed with extreme PTSD. But he met Olcott, who helped him keep a pact he made with his family: If Beverly survived on the battlefield, he’d open his own shop.
“Now I have that outlet where I cannot focus on the past and my guys that I lost. I have a driven passion to drive the mobility back to this -- called life,” Beverly explained.
Beverly and Olcott made a business plan.
“We are wanting to give back and show people what this country is truly founded on. This, it is making something with your hands,” they said.
That plan also included a name for the business that would speak to what their vehicle restoration shop would be about.
“The term BattleBorn, it comes from the men and women that have served,” explained Olcott. “Our men and women who have served have been through their battles that made them who they are.”
While Olcott was not in the military himself, he has many friends who have served -- with some who have given the ultimate sacrifice. He shares Beverly’s passion for honoring the legacies of those lost and helping those who now face a new chapter in their lives.
“Making someone smile when they have a beat up car and they bring it in here, look brand new again. You can't put a price on that,” Olcott said.
You can’t buy the camaraderie that’s born at this Spring Park business, either.
“You know, these guys aren't just saying, ‘We help veterans’ and use that label to get you in the door. They're actually helping people out," said BattleBorn customer and Coast Guard veteran Russell O’Shey.
O'Shey told News4Jax he heard about BattleBorn Kustoms through word of mouth from other veterans, and he is now a repeat customer.
“The moment you step in the door here you feel like you are one of the guys, you feel like you are part of the build,” he added.
Beverly and Olcott even rescued a dog recently from a local animal shelter, just before she was scheduled to be put down.
They’ve given her a new lease on life, making her a part of the BattleBorn team.
“You ask me what the military did for me to bring me back in this shop, it taught me to stand with integrity and to believe in something other than yourself,” Beverly explained.
The business partners said they put their patriotic passion into every customer -- veteran or not -- whether it’s to fix a bumper or turn a handful of parts and a frame into a brand new vehicle.
They’re also giving back by refurbishing scooters and motorized chairs to give to veterans in need.
“These are donor chairs that we recover from homes of deceased veterans that families either forget, or do not pick up. We actually take them in and repair them. We prep them and give them to deserving vets that are on that waiting list that hasn’t gotten them and that are waiting over a time frame,” explained Beverly.
“Doing what we love and helping and giving back, who wouldn’t want to do that?” Olcott added. "We found a way to do that and now we are just living the dream.”
And while Beverly and Olcott are helping customers live the dream, their business is helping build family style relationships with the community, too.
“Every Friday we fire up the grill. Granted, we do not have all of this fancy meat, but this is a family, it doesn't matter, just come,” said both Beverly and Olcott with a smile.
"You may have a day off from work, and you may not want to stay at home. You know, come on by, come by," Beverly added.
“You just feel welcome, feels like family here,” said O’Shey.
BattleBorn Kustoms, Inc. is located at 3604 Spring Park Road in Jacksonville. For more information on the work they do or to learn more about the scooter donor program for veterans in need, call 904-619-5931, go to their website or message them on their BattleBorn Kustoms Facebook page.
If you are interested in finding a veteran-owned business near you, the nationwide company VeteransList.us compiles an easy-to-use database of veteran-owned businesses. Anyone can search for free by product, place or ZIP code. Also, veteran-owned businesses wanting to be in the company's database can request to be for free, as well.