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thedrifter
01-27-09, 07:43 AM
Local group carves honors for wounded vets
Anthony Welsch 7 hrs ago


It took an explosion on the streets of Iraq to put in a kink in Sergeant Andrew Simmons stride back in 2006 as he made his way home to East Tennessee.

"I was just walking on the street on foot patrol, headed back to the base, and I just happened to come across an IED [improvised explosive device]. I didn't even know it was there until it exploded. It went off about eight feet behind me. Put a little piece of shrapnel in my leg," Simmons said.

After some physical therpay, the purple heart recipient now walks without complaints, but still worries occasionally what the wound will mean later in life.

"Who is to say in the future I won't have a hard time walking?" the Marine asked.

But one group of East Tennesseans are giving soldiers and Marines like Simmons reason for a little bounce in their step.

"They're doing a bang-up job, and you've got to give them credit," Fred Binning, a member of the Smoky Mountain Wood Carvers said.

Along with similar groups all around the country, the Smoky Mountain Wood Carvers whittle away at tokens of recognition for wounded East Tennessee veterans.

"There are 57 of them who have been wounded, and our hope is to make canes for almost all of the 57," Binning said.

Nationally, hundreds of soldiers have been honored with the canes. It all started when a group in Oklahoma started the tradition in 2004, and it's spread to carving groups around the country.

During a presentation in Knoxville, Simmons became one of the honored. A carved cane, complete with an Eagle bust, became his.

"We think it shows there are people interested in their plight and also interested in helping them get back to what could be as normal a life as they could have," Binning said.

While the cane will only fly on display at Simmons' home for now, the sergeant says it's good to know, at least one group of men are thinking about his sacrifice and future.

"It's nice, it's a wonderful gesture," Simmons said. "You can tell it took a long time to make."

Ellie