Victor Fricke works on creating customized wooden canes for veterans in the area. (WRDW-TV / Dec. 29, 2011)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011
AIKEN, S.C. -- Don't call Victor Fricke a master wood carver. He just began about a year ago.
He started with a boot, then a little mouse to hang on a computer screen, and a sailor, too. He's also working on a pretty elaborate nativity scene.
"And there's 15 pieces in it, so I keep telling people I'm going to finish it by Christmas, but I don't say what year," he said with a laugh.
But now, the shavings are falling from a bigger project. He's making canes for wounded warriors.
"It's kind of like a win-win for everybody," Fricke said.
He doesn't use a cane, but he's a veteran himself.
"In college, it was during the Vietnam era, and like a lot of other college guys, I joined the Navy so I wouldn't be drafted in the Army," he said, laughing again.
When he came back from his three-year stretch of active duty, he wasn't welcomed with open arms.
"When you came back, you really didn't want to tell anybody that you were a veteran because you would almost always get a negative reaction," Fricke said.
But today, he says, things have changed, and that's why what he's doing is so important. He enlisted other members of the Aiken Woodcarving Club and another club to start the project that will make around 21 canes for wounded warriors in our local hospitals. After they carve down a wooden shaft, they top it with the ornate head of a Bald Eagle. They also put the veteran's name, rank and other info on the side.
"Instead of making a knickknack that's worth about five minutes of appreciation and it goes on a shelf, I think it's going to be very satisfying to give a person something that he'll be using everyday," Fricke said.
Of course, his fear is that they'll be so beautiful that vets won't want to use them day-to-day, but he can live with that. He says they want to finish them up as soon as possible. They want to personally hand them off to wounded warriors at Eisenhower, the VA and the burn center.