A loan of $5,000 helped invest in CNC technology which would increase my productivity and accuracy.

Steven's story

As a retired Combat Veteran, I founded Canes For Courage in 2012. Having served as a Special Operations Officer with the 401st Civil Affairs (CA) Battalion in Webster, New York, I led teams as an Assistant and Primary CA Team Chief with first-rotation deployments to both Bosnia in 1996 and Afghanistan in 2002.

While in Bosnia, I decided to sponsor one of my translators for college in the US. Though I had no idea how I would fund such a prospect, Providence provided and between my domestic partner and me, we managed to pay for all of his expenses during a four-year period.
The Bosnian Muslim, Emil Okanovic, went on to earn two degrees in 31/2 years in International Business and Political Science...all that, a sixth fluent language, and a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average.

After retirement and relocating to Virginia, I noticed that a combat-wounded friend was using a Veterans Administration (VA) issued adjustable cane with Iraq and Afghanistan stickers attached to it. Deeming it unacceptable, I resolved to use my 30 years of talent and passion to create a functional work of art that would not only assist the veteran with walking, but allow him to display individual awards and/or beliefs on his totally unique cane.

In addition to custom-carved canes, I have begun to carve walking sticks and individualized custom carvings. Furthermore, I have been recognized for my skill as a painter. My most recent painting, "Window of Opportunity" resides in the George W. Bush Library and Museum in Dallas, TX. It was the first combat painting from the war in Afghanistan.

Facing numerous obstacles as an innovative and creative Army Officer, I gained international attention when I spoke up for my soldiers who were being deployed for a second tour before a mandatory 12-month stabilization Period at home. Egos of superior Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers got in the way as these commanders attempted to send them back to war before their allotted time. My mini-rebellion halted hundreds of soldiers from being deployed early, but cost me dearly within the chain of command.

My true-life story of my early development and time as a soldier is captured in my soon-to be-published memoir: Special Ed: The First American Soldier/Teacher in Afghanistan.

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About Canes For Courage

Industry: Arts
Years in operation: 6 months - 1 year
Website: canesforcourage.com

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