HICKORY, N.C. -- Stroke by stroke, Angelo Fanzo Sr. paints his past.

"It was horrible," said the U.S. Army Veteran who served in Vietnam.

"You see your buddy one day, lying there with his leg blown off and it gets [to] you," Fanzo recalls.

Life after the service featured a different kind of battle: addiction.

"I moved, disappeared for 20 years. Nobody could find me," Fanzo said.

After not seeing his kids for 25 years, Angelo Jr. found his father, sober and tapped with potential.

"He truly values our family and I think we're all blessed to have him in our lives," said Angelo Jr., who moved his father to Hickory to live closer.

Now when Angel Sr. isn't with family or at Sandy Ridge Baptist Church, he builds birdhouses.

"I'm up to 160," he said.

But they aren't birdhouses for your Aunt's crazy cardinals, they're for families of fallen heroes.

"You get the response back from each family and it makes you want to do more."

Angelo is Italian for "angel," which is what he might be to the 8-year-old boy who received a birdhouse from Fanzo after his father died while serving overseas.

The little boy sent Fanzo a box sticks, a glue gun and a plea to continue making birdhouses for other families.

Unable to leave home often, the birdhouses give him purpose.

"My lungs won't hold oxygen," said Fanzo.

Angelo Fanzo Sr. doesn't know how much time he has but he knows what he will do with the time he has left.

"I'm here for a reason and this is my reason, I guess," he said.