For all occasions? Veterans receive eagle head canes

DELVIN MERRILL — a veteran and prisoner of war (POW) during the Korean War, holds up his eagle cane for people to see at the American Legion Post No. 155 meeting on Tuesday. (De Busk Photo)

DELVIN MERRILL — a veteran and prisoner of war (POW) during the Korean War, holds up his eagle cane for people to see at the American Legion Post No. 155 meeting on Tuesday. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES – Two local veterans of World War II received an eagle head cane inscribed with their names and dates of military service. One of the men, Fred Gilman, said he would only bring it out on special occasions; while the other gentleman, Reginald “Reggie” Mains, said he would use it all the time.

“It’s going to be my third leg,” Mains said, adding he has two or three canes he relies upon regularly.

Being a recipient of the eagle head cane “took my heart away,” Mains said.

“I wasn’t expecting it, even though they told me about it,” he said.

The presentation was part of the monthly meeting at The American Legion Post No. 155. Following a dinner and dessert, the legion members convened upstairs to witness three war veterans receive hand-carved canes with eagle head handles.

Gilman, Mains and Devlin Merrill, a veteran and prisoner of war (POW) during the Korean War were the three men honored with the canes.

The Eagle Cane Project actually originated in Oklahoma. It came to Maine in 2003 with the help of the Maine Woodturners and the Maine Woodcarvers Association.

Post Chaplain Ron Edson helped to coordinate the handing off of the canes. “These canes are hand-made for each veteran specifically. These veterans are well into their 80s and 90s and we feel this is the recognition that is long overdue them,” Edson said.

The shafts were made from Maine mountain ash. The eagle’s eyes are glass, he said. The detail on the cane is exquisite.

WORLD WAR II VETERAN — Fred Gilman receives a custom-carved eagle cane on Tuesday evening. (De Busk Photo)

WORLD WAR II VETERAN — Fred Gilman receives a custom-carved eagle cane on Tuesday evening. (De Busk Photo)

Gilman was pleased to receive the cane. “I am going to use it on special occasions, not every day,” the Casco resident said.

Gilman was born in 1924. He signed up for military service in 1942 — joining the ranks of the United States Army in December of that year. His wartime service ended on Christmas Day 1945. He has been involved with the Legion since the 1990s, he said.

Mains has been involved with the Legion “for more than 50 years — since 1946. Same with the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). I am lifetime member,” he said. Mains served in the Navy from 1943 through 1946.

Merrill said he was glad to have his customized cane. He joined the Army in 1950, and became a prisoner of war during the Korean War conflict at the time. He returned home to Maine in 1953. He has received the POW medal, the Gold Star, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

When asked if he would keep his cane on display or take it out in public a lot, he said, “Oh yeah, I’ll use it.”

According to Edson, Kathy Webster is the woman who created the canes.

“There was a lady who made these canes. She made all three. She wouldn’t come tonight because it was about the veterans and not her cane-making abilities,” he told the people in attendance.

He agreed with her that it was important to extend real gestures of gratitude for war veterans for keeping Americans and America safe.

“We lose more (World War II veterans) every day. We want to honor the ones we have on our post for their service,” Edson said. “We couldn’t be the country we are today without you guys, thank you,” he said.

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