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Jim's wood pens used worldwide
Jim Gollnick takes pride in the fact that his handmade wooden pens are being used by members of the U.S. military throughout the world. It's his way of saying thanks for serving the country.

"It really is a labor of love," said Gollnick, 65, who is currently spending about 40 hours per week making pens to keep up with demand. He has partnered up with a small group from Ceres Community Church who is sharing the pens through the Adopt A Soldier program.

Gollnick served in the Army Reserves for eight years and later worked for Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore. Five years ago a friend wanted him to help him make a pen out of wood.

"That got me going, "Ooh, this is kind of neat.'"

That's when he found out about, a loosely knit group of woodworkers who supply pens for members of the American military in war zones. Gollnick donated his pens to their effort but went on his own so that he could slip in his paper. The detailed fact sheet about how he made the pen as well as a note of thanks about serving to defend the United States.

"I want my paper in there. This is personal. If you got this (pen) you would know a little bit who I am, what I do, and that I care and thank you for being a vet and doing active duty.

"I kind of want to know where they go and that they're not just slung out of the window of a Jeep somewhere going down the road."

500 pens to date

To date he has recorded having given over 500 pens directly to those serving in the military and they have gone to members of all four services. Those pens represent about an hour of time each as well as untold dollars from his own budget.

Gollnick's pens have been distributed to injured Marines and soldiers in hospitals in San Antonio and the D.C. area. Gollnick's pens are also on C-130 planes that fly daily from Florida to Afghanistan. His pens are in Finland, Australia, England, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, England, Puerto Rico, Korea, etc.

"I had a pen come down in a helicopter crash in Baghdad that was on the news," said Gollnick, who learned of the event through his connections. The pen was in the pocket of Marine Jesse Doze. He received a message back from Doze that he wanted a special Purple Heart pen made.

Another pen is in an attack Navy submarine "somewhere around Russia."

Servants get them too

He's also has a practice of giving away pens to school teachers, postal delivery workers, delivery men and others. Wife Faith Gollnick, a Hospice nurse at the Alexander Cohen Hospice House, also hands out Jim's pens.

"I'm just interested in people that do public service, you know, kind of the forgotten ones."

Gollnick begins by taking his wood - he likes using hard and unusual woods from Central America - and cuts it down by a band saw. He forms the pen on a lathe and usually inserts a plastic red, white and blue accent piece into the barrel for servicemen and women.

Gollnick occasionally uses wood from Laos for pens given to Vietnam veterans.

"You need a wood that has a very good grain in small distances," he said. He prefers wood that has "lots of action, lots of color, grain."

Resourceful, Gollnick is always searching for wood for his pens. Recently a friend removed kiln-dried cherry wood flooring and he cut it up for pens.

"I got 150 pens out of his scraps so far."

Few write to say thanks

He occasionally hears from people who have enjoyed his pens but mostly doesn't.

"Very little for 500 pens being out there. But then I know when you're out there in Baghdad you don't have access to a computer and you're not going to write a "Dear Jim' note. I realize that."

Gollnick's son-in-law, Reaver Harwell, is a U.S. Army courier serving in Egypt in the military and hands out a lot of pens along the way. A chaplain Harwell associated with was sent to Baghdad "so I sent him like 35. And then I get a thank-you from him that he got them and they were distributed, usually to the ones who don't get much mail."