PARKERSBURG - More than 10,000 American service personnel on active duty and in rehabilitation facilities will be receiving handmade wooden pens, thanks to Woodcraft retail customers and employees.
Woodturners gathered at Woodcraft stores across the country on Veterans Day weekend for the ninth annual Turn for Troops National Turn-a-thon to make the one-of-a-kind wood pens 10,678 this year.
Among the turners at the Parkersburg store was Alan Haught of Harrisville, whose son, Maj. Deron Haught, is retired from the U.S. Army.
Alan Haught of Harrisville was among those making the pens at the Parkersburg Woodcraft location.
"I like to let them know that there are people who care and think about them. Deron served in Iraq, so I know the feeling of having a loved one in danger," Haught said. "I put a card in with the pen and tell what kind of wood it is. I name the wood to give them a sense of something back home too. I usually get a few messages back each year from some of them too cards and emails."
Haught has participated in the Turn for Troops event for four years. Like many of the turners, he learned to turn pens in a Woodcraft class, a gift from his daughter, Lori Milner, Woodcraft marketing manager, who joined him for the class.
Haught said he has worked with wood for several years as a hobby. This year he made 40 to 50 pens.
Haught likes to use various types of wood for his pens.
"I like to use all sorts of wood," he said. "I like to use West Virginia hardwoods or some of the exotic woods found in American woods."
The pens can have a special meaning to recipients, Haught said.
"When the pen arrives from back home it could be like getting something from their homes," he said. "It's like if they have an oak tree in their yards at home and the pen is made from oak, it would be like getting something from their own homes."
Haught, who is the mayor of Harrisville, said he took a woodturning class at Woodcraft. In addition to pens he also makes bowls using the lathe he uses for pens.
Maj. Deron Haught was deployed twice to Iraq, in 2004 and 2005 and again in 2007 and 2008.
Maj. Haught said both times he got the pens for the troops under his command.
"Both times I gave them to the commanders under me and they distributed them," he said. "I had 40 troops the first time and more than 180 under my command."
Haught said the first time he was deployed the troops had to use the pens to send letters because they had limited access to the Internet and email.
"The second time things were not as austere as then," he said. "Those pens are a significant gift. They get care packages, but these pens also show someone back home knows what we're doing and they appreciate what we do."
Today, Haught is retired and has been a civilian employee of the Department of the Army and will soon be a Department of Defense civilian employee. He will be training civilians to work in military logistics.
Including the 2012 total, the volunteer woodturners have crafted 97,717 of the unique pens since the first Woodcraft Turn for Troops National Turn-a-thon in 2004.