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Support for a fellow Marine

Community: Resident uses hobby for man shot in foot while in Iraq

Posted: May 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Carl Diekman, right, presents James Allison with a handcrafted cane in a recent ceremony in Newhall.

 

The two Marines had never met prior to the Santa Clarita Valley Armed Forces Day Festival on May 21.

One is old and retired who spends his days laboring quietly inside his woodshed in the Santa Clarita Valley. The other is young and recovering from a gunshot wound suffered in Iraq.

Both are bound by a bond only members of the United States Marine Corps can appreciate.

But, on May 21, when residents of the Santa Clarita Valley honored the men and women serving in the U.S. armed services, the two soldiers came together in a simple, somber ceremony in William S. Hart Regional Park that touched the hearts of all those who attended.

“I was trying to take pictures through my tears,” said Sharon Ventrice, who represents a group of military relatives called Prayer Angels for the Military, which brought the two together.

Iwo Jima vet
Retired Staff Sgt. Carl Diekman of the U.S. Marines 5th Division now, at age 89, wears a different uniform – a woodworker’s apron and a wrist brace prescribed for carpal tunnel syndrome.

He was one of 110,000 Marines on one of 880 vessels sent to Iwo Jima in the closing months of World War II.

On Feb. 23, 1945, when his fellow Marines were raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, Diekman was on the Iwo Jima coast waiting to join them.

Hanging inside his Granada Villa mobile home on Soledad Canyon Road is a plaque with all the military medals he was awarded for his service.

These days he spends most of his time outside, and most of that time in “Ye Old Wood Shed” as it’s marked in a wood-burned sign hanging on the door that’s left open while he works.

Diekman’s latest wood-carving project is a finely sculpted cane, which he planned to present to a fellow Marine who could use it.

“I had this cane, and I wanted to present it to a wounded Marine,” he said.

He got in touch with Marines in Camp Pendleton, sent letters, sent photographs and finally ended up giving it to a military chaplain.

He never knew who ultimately received it.

“I thought, ‘I’ll make another one’ and someone said ‘Why don’t you give it to someone local?,’ and I thought, ‘OK,’” he said.

That’s when he got in touch with Ventrice through the people at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Purple Heart
U.S. Marine Cpl. James Allison, 27, of Valencia, enlisted in the military on Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists attacked America.

He was wounded in March 2005 while serving in Iraq with the U.S, Marines 1st Division.

A bullet tore through his left foot requiring him to undergo emergency surgery in that country, a follow-up surgery in Germany and then a third surgery in San Diego.

Allison was awarded the Purple Heart for his bravery and service.

The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president to those who have been wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military.

Allison has no feeling in his left foot, according to Ventrice who is good friends with the young man’s grandmother Judy Nelson.

“When I first called him about receiving this cane, Carl had made for him he told me, ‘There’s probably somebody more worthy out there.’ He didn’t feel he was worthy.”

Ventrice got on the phone to Allison’s grandmother to set the record straight.

“I said, ‘No, no, no. You tell him he is the most worthy person to receive this.’”

Memorial Day 2011
On Armed Forces Day, the two soldiers came face to face for the first time.

When Diekman shook the young soldier’s hand, he couldn’t feel it.

A surgical operation to correct the repetitive-strain injury suffered in his wood-carving hand left the nerves numb in the fingertips, Diekman said.

“I can’t tell if I’m holding anything,” he said at the time.

On May 21, there was no second-guessing the bond that was created in a simple handshake, reaching across two military
generations, from one older brother in arms to a younger brother in arms.

“I presented the cane to him,” Diekman said. “I told him ‘You were in the wrong place at the wrong time’ and he kind of laughed.

“I saluted him,” he said.

“Once a Marine, always a Marine. I told him ‘This old Marine would like to present you with this cane to help you along life’s path.’ My son came up to me after and said ‘Dad, you made everyone here cry.’”

The cane is crafted with a purple heart carved into the handle.

In the days to come, Allison is scheduled for more surgery and still learning through physical therapy to walk with his injury.

Now, on this Memorial Day, he holds a torch, of sorts, passed on from one war recovery to another.

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