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march/april 2008

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North Dakota State Council
Real Support For The Troops

Last March, Dennis and Phyllis Enger sent thirty-five walking sticks to the troops at Walter Reed, along with tote bags and blankets they had made by hand. The VVA North Dakota State Council picked up the shipping tab.

Their gifts were so well received that VVA North Dakota State Council President Dan Stenvold asked the Engers to travel to Walter Reed to visit the young soldiers they had helped. When several local Vietnam veterans took the train to Washington for the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Wall in November, the Engers decided to join them. They brought one hundred hand-carved walking sticks with them.

“We wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for the Vietnam veterans making the trip to the Memorial,” Enger said.

Joined by Stenvold, neighbor Steve Holt, and VVA staffer Bernie Edelman, the Engers spent five hours at Walter Reed with the young men and women of the amputee ward.

“All the veterans were pretty excited to see us, and they were grateful for the walking sticks,” Dennis Enger said. “We gave out a hundred sticks, but we could have given out twice that many.” One young soldier “started to get out of his chair, and I tried to tell him to stay seated. But he said he had to stand up and shake my hand and thank me eye-to-eye.”

Phyllis Enger made a special effort to chat with the wives and mothers—the caregivers who are often ignored or taken for granted. While the Engers thanked their new friends for their sacrifices and courage, the injured servicemembers thanked the Engers for their gifts and their consideration.

Before the trip, the Engers had decided their work was done. That’s all changed now: “Forget slowing down,” Dennis Enger said. “We’re going full-bore. As long as I can find the wood, I’ll make walking sticks.”



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