By Liesl Greathouse

MONTROSE–On Sept. 26, the Warrior Resource Center held its first Cane Cere- mony in its new building at Main Street and Park Avenue. The canes, all with eagle head carvings on top, were given to four local veterans of various wars and branches of service.

U.S. Army Veteran Roger Burkepile, who has helped turn canes for other vets, was honored with one of his own last week.

The giving of eagle head canes to veter- ans began during the Civil War. When soldiers returned home with leg injuries, their neighbors would carve canes for them to use. When there were breaks in wars, the tradition faded away.

In 2004, some woodworkers in New Eng- land started up the tradition once again. The idea spread across the nation and two years ago woodworkers in the Grand Val- ley began doing it as well. Soon there was a large demand for the canes and Montrose woodworkers stepped in to help lighten the load. This year, the Montrose woodwork- ing groups decided to branch off and make the canes completely on their own for vet- erans in the Montrose area.

The Cane Ceremony at the Warrior Re- source Center began with Bill Marvel giv- ing a brief history of the canes and their significance. He then presented the canes to their new owners. Miguel (Speedy) T. Garcia, a veteran of the U.S. Army, was first. Then came William H. Bennett, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Jo- seph P. Farrell, a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

A fourth cane was to be presented, howev- er the veteran was unable to attend.

At the end of the ceremony, a surprise cane was presented to Roger G. Burkepile, a veteran of the U.S. Army. He is one of the turners who helps make the canes, and he actually turned the cane they presented to him. He was very surprised and touched by the honor.

“That’s something,” He said. The list of groups who helped make the

canes for the ceremony was numerous: Grand Valley Woodturners, Grand Valley Wood Carvers, Black Canyon Wood Carv- ers, and Woodworkers Guild of Western Colorado/Turners. The carvers, turners and engravers who make the canes are mostly retired, volunteering their time for the cause.

Darryl Sackmann, the President of the Woodworker’s Guild of Western Colora- do/Turners, was in attendance. The turners who made all the canes are members of this group, with 45 active members in to- tal.

Emily Smith, the director of the Warrior Resource Center, stepped in to help with making the canes by offering a more cen- tralized location, the ability to process cane applications online and to help coordinate the effort in Montrose.

Bob Hampton, one of the wood turners, explained the great help Emily has been, “When we began to help the Grand Valley groups make canes, we had twelve carvers and twelve turners in the Montrose area. But none of us knew what the others were doing because everything was sent to dif- ferent groups in Grand Junction. It was cha- os.”

Emily described the effort of getting veter- ans, carvers, turners and engravers working together as, “Like herd- ing cats.” The Warrior Resource Center is now heading up the entire process of mak- ing and presenting the canes in Montrose.

All veterans of any conflicts can be nomi- nated to receive a cane.


The rank, name, home state, branch of service, service dates, war/conflict, areas and stations of the veteran can all be en- graved on the cane. If the veteran is a Pur- ple Heart recipient, a band of Purple Heart Wood is placed under the eagle’s head. The canes are not up to the proper code to be used as an actual cane, so they are more of a decorative piece.

The canes can be a surprise for the veter- an and a Cane Ceremony can be held pri- vately in the veteran’s home. Other times the canes can be presented in a more pub- lic setting, such as at the Montrose Senior Center or the Warrior Resource Center. The Ceremonies are held as the canes are completed, so there is no regular schedule for the Ceremonies.

Bill Marvel said that the canes are im- portant because, “Not only are they beauti- ful artistic pieces, but they are also in recognition of what the veterans have been through in service to their country. Lots of veterans, especially of the Vietnam War, got nothing but grief when they came back.”

Emily Smith added, “It is a great way for the community to show appreciation of our local veterans.”

If anyone is interested in helping out with making the canes, whether as carvers, turn- ers or engravers, or if anyone would like more information about the Warrior Re- source Center, they may call 970-765- 2210, go online to Welcomehomemont- rose.org or visit the Warrior Resource Center at 11 South Park Ave in Montrose.