Some U.S. Army veterans retire and leave the service behind. Copperas Cove, Texas, there is one veteran that is still serving his country and doing so without a uniform.
The Desert Storm Veteran who injured his back during his eight years of service and is behind this movement is Jamie Willis. He was diagnosed with a 100% disability by the Veterans Affairs Hospital and needs a cane to walk. It was that cane that inspired his nonprofit, Canes for Veterans Central Texas.
Jamie is a 50-year-old veteran that is now making canes out of recycled Christmas trees. He has done so since 2016 and has given away more than 200 canes.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the veterans, getting the canes out to all my brother and sisters out there,” Willis said. “It starts with one cane, make one cane and give it away.”
The holidays are coming to a close and Willis is asking the community to give him their Christmas trees. He wants to make more canes in 2020. Over 1,000 trees were donated by the community to the nonprofit organization.
“The community has been great, they have shown so much love and support for this and without them, there is no way this could have happened,” Willis said. “This has spread like wildfire, pretty much.”
There was one particular story that stood out to Willis among all of those that he heard.
“There was a lady that drove all the way from Dallas with her son, who is a veteran, just to drop off a single tree and to meet me and to shake my hand and say thank you. That one touched me big time, that to me was amazing,” Willis said.
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Home Depot and Lowe’s also donated trees to Willis. In speaking with Fox News, Home Depot said: “Because veterans are such a big part of our own company culture, we understand the importance of serving those who have served us all.”
After the trees are donated, the limbs are removed and the trees put out to dry by volunteers. After they dry, Willis strips the bark and attaches handles. Polyurethane is then added and they are shipped to those in need. Oscar De Vere Morris, the owner of Free Canes for Veterans taught Willis the process.
A number of areas have benefited from these canes, including Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, California, Alaska, Germany, and the U.K.
“There are more good people out here than what you normally see. It has just been amazing, I can’t really put it into words,” Willis said.
It takes approximately 4 to 6 months before the trees can be dry enough to turn into canes. A list has been prepared in the meantime for things that are needed while the wood is drying. It includes sandpaper, grinder discs, paintbrushes, and polyurethane.
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