Woodworkers craft pens for wounded heroes

PARKERSBURG – Local members of the woodturning community showed their support for U.S. veterans on Saturday by making pens to be handed out to Purple Heart Medal recipients.

“It’s an absolute honor that I can do something like this and give to these brave men and women,” said woodturner Ben Vice, of Parkersburg, who began the event at Woodcraft on Emerson Avenue in Parkersburg.

For the past nine years Woodcraft customers and employees have been turning wooden pens on or near Veterans Day to send to military personnel on active duty overseas and in rehabilitation facilities and hospitals as thank-you gifts for their service. To date, 97,717 pens have been turned in the Turn for Troops program.

Saturday’s turning event used purpleheart wood, native to Central and South America, which was donated to the Purpleheart/Purple Heart project by Military Chaplain Mike McCawley, one of Woodcraft’s contacts for distributing the Turn for Troops pens.

“Someone sent some purpleheart wood to (McCawley) and he thought it would make great pens to present with the Purple Heart Medals,” Vice said. “It’s a great way for us to honor the troops.”

Barbara Nichols, of Parkersburg, watched the turning of the first pen on Saturday with her son, Rocky Nichols, who works for Woodcraft through S.W. Resources and places hardware on many of the pens.

“These pens are such a personal gift,” said Barbara Nichols. “I am honored just to be able to watch this and see the craft being done.”

Dating back to the Revolutionary War, the Badge of Military Merit or Decoration of the Purple Heart was established by order of Gen. George Washington on Aug. 7, 1782, at Newburg-on-the-Hudson, N.Y. No awards were presented after the end of the American Revolution, but it was revived by presidential order in 1932.

Initially those eligible for the award included any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or any civilian national of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Forces after April 5, 1917, was wounded, killed, or died or might thereafter die of wounds received in one of the following circumstances:

* In action against an enemy of the United States;

* In action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or have been engaged;

* While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party;

* As a result of an act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces;

* As the result of an act of any hostile foreign force.

Later amendments added eligibility in other circumstances such as international terrorist attacks, military peacekeeping operations outside the U.S., friendly fire incidents and being held a prisoner of war, as well as removing eligibility for civilians.

“I am just happy to be able to serve those who serve our country,” Vice said.