KNOXVILLE — UPDATE (May 8, 2018):
A Blount County Vietnam Veteran received a major honor Tuesday: two walking sticks to commemorate his service and his brother's sacrifice.
Johnny Whitehead's younger brother, Larry, died during the Vietnam War. He got two walking sticks from Steve Newman, another veteran, who turned his carving hobby into a regular tribute to East Tennessee veterans.
Whitehead received the 4,000th walking stick Tuesday. He says he grateful for the honor.. for himself and his brother.
ORIGINAL STORY (Aug. 9, 2017):
"The Lord just laid it on my heart to do it."
Chuck Lee called it divine intervention. After a windy storm blew bamboo onto his neighborhood road, he decided to keep a few of the stalks… just in case.
"One day a little light bulb went off and I said, hey, I could use that for a walking stick," Lee said.
2,216 sticks later…Chuck Lee was set to help people steady their walk.
Karen van Rij is one such recipient. She has arthritis and the walking stick makes it a little easier to get around for her job at the Karns Branch Library.
"The only thing he asks is that people pay it forward and do something nice for someone else. And I said, well, I can certainly do that," van Rij said.
Chuck also likes to finish each interaction with a little piece of what got the whole process started in the first place…
"I say one more thing before we part, and that's God bless you…. And I've done that 2,216 times so far."