In the front yard of Charles Curley's Holiday Park home, an American flag snaps in the breeze atop a tall flag pole. Underneath it flies the black-and-white POW/MIA flag: "You Are Not Forgotten."
That's the message Curley, 50, wanted to send the POWs from the Iraqi war. After he learned of their release in March, he got busy handcrafting eight solid-pine rocking horses in their honor.
"My wife and I have always been patriotic. I was in the military for 22 years and support President Bush and his decision to go to war," said Curley, who retired from the Army in 1992 and settled in Martinez. "When the POWs were released, we were so elated. I know four of five of them have families with children, so I thought the rocking horses would be our way of saying thank you for serving our country and all the hardships you have had to put up with."
Making the rocking horses was one thing, sending them was another. With the packing materials, the boxes each weighed 25 pounds and cost about $44 each to mail.
Curley, field operations engineer for KMC Telecom, called his former coworker Ed Presnell to see if he knew of any shipping options. Presnell began a telethon, calling Curley's former KMC Telecom co-workers, and raised more than enough to cover the cost of shipping. B. Karen Chrjapin of PostNet on Washington Road agreed to pick up half of the tab and Georgia Business Net was also a major contributor, Curley said.
Chuck Curley made eight rocking horses to send to the eight POWs who were freed from captivity in Iraq.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"It was away for all the KMC alumni to support someone we enjoyed working with, and the response was overwhelming," Presnell said. "It's a neat blend of the past and the present."
Each rocking horse is personalized with an engraved plate on the bottom that says "Thank You," and has the POW's name, rank and year. Six were sent to Fort Bliss and two to Fort Hood. Curley also enclosed a letter of thanks, only asking for a photo in return. He keeps an album of his rocking horses and their owners.
Curley, 50, began woodworking when he lived in Germany in 1977.
"I've never had any formal wood training. I've always been taught, 'You've got a brain and if you use it you can do wondrous things,"' Curley said.
Each horse takes about eight hours to make. Curley cuts the pattern with a band saw. When the rocking horse is joined together, the edges are routed and smoothed.
Curley copied the pattern from a rocking horse his daughter had as a child and began making them when his infant son was hospitalized. The rocking horses, which he sells for $125, were a way to make extra money, Curley said. He picked up his hobby again two years ago when he wanted to make a gift for a neighbor who had adopted a child from Russia.
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