Wooden walking stick wows WWII vet|[02/10/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Siegfried Steinberger has a dandy new way to get around these days, thanks to the artistry of Mississippi woodcarvers.

The 85-year-old World War II veteran was presented with a wooden cane bearing a Purple Heart and a magnolia, emblems of his military experiences and home state roots as his fellow Disabled American Veterans members gathered Saturday at Battlefield Inn for the Department of Mississippi’s mid-winter conference.

“Yes, I’m surprised,” Steinberger said, clutching the cedar wood walking stick while sitting near his two-wheeled walker. “I’ll be using it a lot.”

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A Ridgeland resident, Steinberger was presented the cane by Pearl River Woodcarvers Guild president Joe Hunt as thanks for honorable service — a tour of duty in the Pacific theater that included the military’s oldest decoration.

Hunt said Saturday’s presentation is part of the Brandon-based guild’s Veterans Canes Project, an effort to provide canes to as many disabled military veterans in the state as possible.

“If he’s a Mississippian and he’s a disabled veteran, we’ll get him a cane,” Hunt said, adding the organization has supplied about 50 to disabled veterans statewide, with all carving costs coming from club dues and private donations at no cost to veterans.

Veterans organizations may recommend any disabled Mississippi veteran for a cane, regardless of period and branch of service, Hunt said. The guild hopes to make canes for 720 veterans in 2008.

Canes were also presented to Department of Mississippi Adjutant Jimmy Reece and Commander Robert Serafin, the latter of which was carved by Vicksburg resident John Harris. Hunt carved the cane given to Steinberger.

Those considering a veteran for the cane project must provide the name and dates of service, as well as contact information.

More information on the cane project can be obtained by calling Hunt at 601-824-4561 or visiting www.pearlriverwoodcarvers.org.

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