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Retired Army Vet Finds Unique Way To Honor Oklahoma's Fallen Soldiers

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Retired Col. Ken Younkin is on a new mission, using his woodworking skills to honor our soldiers past and present. Retired Col. Ken Younkin is on a new mission, using his woodworking skills to honor our soldiers past and present.
NORMAN, Oklahoma -

An Army veteran is making it his personal mission to never forget the fight for our freedom and honor Oklahoma's finest in a unique way.

Like many retirees, this Norman man spends his time tinkering out in his shop. But retired Col. Ken Younkin is on a new mission, using his woodworking skills to honor our soldiers past and present.

"I feel I owe an obligation to them. I spent all that time and never saw battle," Younkin said.

Woodworking in his shop, that's how Younkin spends most of his days now that he's retired. He served 30 years and 2 months in the Army Reserve.

"I was supposed to go to Vietnam and my orders were canceled two weeks before I left the U.S. and every Vietnam Veteran I've talked to said ‘Boy, that's great. Don't worry about it.' "

While working in his shop at home in Norman, the retired colonel does think about the soldiers who served with him, and those who served before and after his time. His focus, however, is on those who are fighting now, who've paid the ultimate sacrifice.

"We've had all these young folks go and serve our nation and many have died. We've lost over 6,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting for our freedom," he said. "It's the least I can do for them."

Younkin volunteers for "Portrait Freedom." When a soldier is killed in the line of duty, families send him a portrait, his buddy draws up a sketch and he gets to work on his scroll saw, detailing in oak, the soldier who fought and died for our freedom.

Read more about Portrait Freedom.

"We cut them and donate them," he said. "It's our way of thanking the family for their loved ones service and showing we appreciate them."

Using money from his own pocket, Younkin has made 51 handmade wooden plaques of Oklahoma's own fallen and beyond. One portrait he made went to a family in Hawaii.

Now, using the scraps from 51 portraits he's made, he also made ornaments to give to World War II veterans when they head out on an honor flight to see Washington D.C. on June 6.

"I'm just doing what I think is right, the way my folks brought me up and what I think is the right thing to do."

Read more about the honor flight.

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