What does retired Staff Sgt. Carl Diekman of the U.S. Marines 5th Division who fought at Iwo Jima want for his 95th birthday?
Answer: To give, instead of receive, specifically giving back to Iwo Jima vets.
Diekman, who turns 95 Friday with a birthday celebration set for Saturday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post #6885 on Sierra Highway, wants to raise money for the Iwo Jima Monument West Project – a monumental tribute planned for Camp Pendleton.
And, he’s going to raise that money for his fellow Iwo Jima vets, he told The Signal Monday, the best way he can, by offering for sale the intricate wood carvings he creates at his home in Canyon Country.
He wears a simpler uniform from the sharp blue Marines uniform he wore during the Second World War – a woodworker’s apron and a wrist brace prescribed for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Five years ago, in a somber but touching ceremony in May 2011, in William S. Hart Regional Park, Diekman – then 89 – presented a hand-crafted cane to a young Iraqi war vet recovering from a gunshot wound.
Not too long after that, Diekman returned to his workshop – “Ye Old Wood Shed” as it was marked in a wood-burned sign that hung over its door – and crafted another finely sculpted cane for a vet in Camp Pendleton who lost both legs in combat.
“He was so grateful,” Diekman’s daughter, Margo, said of the Marine’s reaction at receiving Diekman’s gift.
The canes, coupled with the care and craftsmanship that go into making them, and the passion of an old soldier wanting to help wounded younger soldiers, have become the symbol of a legacy Diekman has carved out for himself.
The legacy he shares with his 10 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren is the story of a heroic World War II veteran.
“All the kids call him Buddy,” said Diekman’s daughter, Margo.
They may not know the particulars about a world war that happened more than half a century ago, but they know their “Buddy” is a hero, she said Monday.
On Feb. 23, 1945, when Diekman’s 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, Diekman has a bit more trouble getting around. He can no longer stand inside his work shed, laboring over canes for vets who have trouble walking. He has trouble walking himself.
Instead, his daughter moved his wood-carving tools onto the patio at his home.
This Saturday, two of his five-foot intricately carved walking sticks will be added to the items put up for sale in a silent auction.
“I just go out there and work till my hand starts hurting, then I quit,” he said about wood-carving of late.
Money raised at Diekman’s birthday party go to plans to build an Iwo Jima monument at Camp Pendleton which is expected to display the iconic image of the Iwo Jima flag-raising on Mount Suribachi.
The planned monument endeavor is called the Iwo Jima Monument West Project.
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