NEW BERLIN Ė The VA hospital in Syracuse told a local Vietnam Air Force veteran to leave his walking stick at home last week. The Syracuse VA Medical Center stated the walking stick, a life-sized wooden carving of an M-16, could cause patients at the facility unnecessary anxiety.
New Berlin resident Steve Simons said hospital security called him on April 14 following a medical visit and told him his gun-shaped walking cane was being permanently banned.
Simons carved and stained the wooden M16 cane himself and intentionally designed it to appear similar to the actual weapon, but adds: ďIt looks like itís made of wood.Ē
Simons crafted the M16-shaped walking stick in February and said he brought it to the hospital on at least a dozen occasions.
ďIíve taken it everywhere I go Ė the hospital, the bank, the store, wherever. Iíve had a lot of people, vets, come up to me. Itís a great conversation starter. I usually end up giving people one of my cards and Iíve never had a security official approach me about it before they called me last week,Ē he said.
Gordon Sclar, public affairs officer at the Syracuse Medical Center, said the hospital did not comment on specific issues relating to patients, but issued this statement:
ďThe mission of this VA facility is to care for veterans, who by their very essence, were trained to use weapons to defend our countryís values and freedom. To introduce a realistic looking M-16 rifle or any such weapon facsimile has the potential to be disruptive to our health care mission. The sight of such an object may not be readily explainable to our veteran clientele and thus could unnecessarily raise their anxiety level. We chose to take a prudent and common sense approach when faced with a decision of being proactive with respect to limiting the introduction of such potential disruptive factors into our care environment,Ē he said.