At halftime of Augusta State University’s military appreciation game, the Augusta Warrior Project and Aiken Woodcarver’s Club will recognize three former soldiers for their service by presenting them with the canes.
Each cane is individually designed to represent the service member’s experiences and achievements, and carved by a member of the club, according to a news release. It takes about 50 hours to complete.
The idea for making canes for wounded vets came from a similar project Fricke saw in another state.
“We wanted to produce something useful for the vets,” said Fricke, a Navy vet. “We want to say thanks for their service with something they can use.”
The club has agreed to do at least 21 canes.
Three of them are finished; two will be presented today and the third will be shipped to the veteran who has left the area.
One of the recipients, Spc. Heath McClung, joined the Army when he was 20 years old.
On his first deployment in Afghanistan he was injured and now walks with a forearm crutch.
At 23, he has had leg surgeries and has more in his future, but he is excited to see his new cane.
“It really shows they care,” McClung said. “I just hope I don’t break it.”
Fricke has been carving for only two years and acknowledges that he is still learning. He was trying to take a picture of McClung’s cane when it fell over and the eagle’s beak broke off. He glued it back on and tried to take another picture.
The same thing happened.
The second time, he used epoxy to reattach it, which worked.
“I’m learning all the time,” Fricke said.
After finishing the eagle head, he decorates the shaft.
The Augusta Warrior Project provides the information to put on the canes for each veteran.
Fricke said he is equally excited and nervous to present the canes.
“They are probably going to want me to say something,” he said. “I’m not great in front of crowds.”