Forging a New Future: NMDVR helps local bladesmith realize his dreams


Story by Felina Martinez | News-Bulletin Staff Writer | Feb 29, 2024

LOS LUNAS — Describing himself as not the sit-at-home type, Los Lunas resident Chad Thompson decided it was time for a change.  

“Being disabled, I would get down on myself,” Thompson said. “I felt like I didn’t have anything to do, and it’s just not healthy to not have more of a purpose.”  

In 1998, Thompson was the victim of a random shooting in Belen. The incident left him battling chronic physical problems as well as persistent post-traumatic stress disorder.  

“Some of my lung had to be cut out and it really messed up my back,” Thompson said. “I was very untrusting and I had problems being in groups and around people, so in 2000 they put me on disability because I just couldn’t function.”  

Over the years, Thompson has made great strides in mending both physically and mentally.  

“It’s been a long time, but I’ve gotten to a point where I can be around people and I’m happy, but I’m most happy when I’m doing my own craft with my own hands,” he said. 

Having a long-time fascination with knives and hunting, Thompson was an avid viewer of History Channel’s reality program “Forged in Fire,” which inspired a new goal to pursue a career as a bladesmith.  

“I love hunting, and the art and science of taking a piece of steel and a piece of wood and making it into a piece of art,” said Thompson. “We all cook or use knives in one way or another every day. Even in the technological world we live in, you’re always going to need a knife.”  

In 2022, Thompson began attending classes at Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing in Texas — the premiere school for the craft in the United States and one of the few bladesmithing schools in the world.  

Thompson said he got to work alongside some top-notch bladesmiths in his classes, which helped him to sharpen his skills and hone his craft.  

“It was really cool and empowered me,” he said. “It’s therapy hitting that steel and hearing the ringing of the anvil, the smells … It felt like I’ve been under a thumb since the shooting, but it helped me see that there’s a lot more to life.”  

Thompson was eager to continue, but once realizing what a big undertaking it was, he knew he needed some help. This led to him getting in touch with counselors at the New Mexico Division of Vocational Rehabilitation site in Los Lunas.  

Thompson said NMDVR paid travel and lodging fees for him to attend the school in Texarkana, Texas, and provided free counseling and step-by-step guidance. This has allowed him to keep up with his course work and secure an apprenticeship with the American Bladesmith Society.  

“A big part of our services is the vocational counseling and guidance, which is really us trying to help them figure out step one, two, three … so that it doesn’t feel like it’s an overwhelming undertaking,” said Vanessa Anderson, Thompson’s DVR counselor.  

“They’ve been awesome and have helped me out so much,” said Thompson, adding that people should not be afraid to reach out to agencies like NMDVR for assistance.  

“Everybody has a disability in some way, and everybody needs a little help. Don’t be scared to ask,” he said.  

Once finished with his classes, Thompson plans on opening his own business to make bladesmithing his full-time gig. DVR’s help extends toward this as well, as they are helping him build out his business feasibility plan to help get his business off the ground. 

Thompson’s previous DVR counselor, Samantha Michael, said she’s seen a lot of positive changes in Thompson since they first started working together, and she’s happy he’s making such a positive difference in his life and for his family. 

“It’s helped my marriage; it’s helped my relationships with people and it’s actually healing me and helping me,” said Thompson. “I want my chapter to feel like my best years are in front of me, not behind me.” 

Keep a lookout, because Thompson is aiming to launch his business, Bad Chad’s Forge, and the accompanying online store this summer. It will feature a variety of carefully-crafted products ranging from pocket and folding knives, hunting knives and more.  

Anderson said DVR is one of the most under-utilized services in Valencia County, especially considering the amount of free services they provide.  

“We pretty much do it all if it’s employment related and we provide a lot of financial assistance,” Anderson said. “It’s all client driven and informed service. We don’t make the decisions for them, but we help guide them.” 

Anderson said NMDVR works with people from all walks of life and they service youth, seniors and everyone in between.  

“They do have to have a documented disability. People always think of the extreme, but very few people are ineligible for our services. We run the full gambit — mental, physical, educational and medical,” said Anderson.  

Even if you’re not sure what you want to do, Anderson said DVR can still help you. 

“We do assessments with them to try and figure out what they’re good at, their interests and based off those assessments, we have discussions with them to try and lead them down the path that is their choice, but is also a smart goal and something attainable for them,” she said.  

Michael said DVR will even pay for an assessment if you feel you may have an undiagnosed disability. 

“It’s very rare that anybody has to pay for anything,” said Anderson. “Our services are completely free and anybody can come to us.”  

Anderson said some clients worry about losing their disability or Social Security benefits if they start working, but there are many programs to help people go about that and DVR has benefit counselors who can also work with them.  

“(The counselors) give them a better idea of what their benefits will look like on the back-end if they work, so we try and take all the guesswork out of it for them so they feel comfortable going back to work or starting a career,” she said.  

“Employment means so much more to people than they realize,” Anderson said. “I think a lot of people find a lot of fulfillment through their jobs and it’s about a lot of different things, not just making a paycheck. A lot of people who have disabilities, I think that that’s what they’re looking for.”