Victor Fricke didn’t get a “thank you” when he returned from Vietnam. Like so many other veterans from that war, he found it better not to mention his service.
“We did not get any respect all,” said Fricke, a retired nuclear engineer living on the outskirts of Aiken.
He is on a mission to make sure today’s troops get the recognition they deserve, but he’s using a block of wood instead of a handshake.
Fricke picked up a cheap set of carving knives two years ago on a whim. His first carved piece, a cowboy boot, was a misshapen mess.
“It was pretty ugly,” he said.
He persevered, learning through experience and the guidance of fellow carvers in the Aiken Wood Carving Club which blades to use for detail, the right angle to hold the wood and how to stain a finished piece. His hobby led him online, where he recently came across a nationwide woodcarving project.
The goal of the Eagle Cane Project is to present post-9/11 veterans with a personalized sturdy cane embellished with their branch of service, rank, medals and a hardy bald eagle head for the cane topper.
Fricke found that no disabled veterans had been presented with an eagle-head cane in Georgia or South Carolina.
He has spent the past two months carving a remedy for that; his eagle head is nearly perfect, with beautifully detailed feathers. It’s the first of 21 woodcarving blanks and poles he has ordered as a project for the woodcarving club to finish.
The club is looking for some worthy veterans to receive the canes. Fricke said the beauty of the canes is that they’re utilitarian but also strong, personal statements for young veterans who might otherwise be embarrassed to walk with assistance.