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  • Quilt of Valor quilters with some of their beautiful quilts.

Quilts of Valor: Local Veterans Get Wrapped in Love

The featured image includes Quilt of Valor quilters with some of their beautiful quilts. From left, Suzy Kurelic, Barbara Taylor, Rita Baker, Kay Dejno, Helene Perez and Kathy Sands. All photos by Leigh Lofgren.

Earlier this year, I was asked to be at a private ceremony for a friend’s husband who was being presented with a “Quilt of Valor.” Henry Ames was also turning 100 years old and this ceremony had to be kept secret so it would be a surprise.

Well it was, indeed, a surprise, not just for Henry but for his family and myself. Henry was surrounded by his family as Kay Dejno presented his Quilt of Valor, and it was so beautiful that there was a stunned hush before emotions took over. Because many of my own family members, including my mother, served in various Armed Forces, I had to find out more.

The Quilts of Valor Foundation began from a dream by Catherine Roberts, whose son, Nat, had been deployed to Iraq. Her dream was of a young man in the middle of the night with demons of war surrounding him. Catherine then saw him wrapped in a quilt which changed his demeanor from despair to hope and well-being. From this one dream, a foundation was formed with the first quilt awarded in November 2003 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to a young soldier who had lost his leg in Iraq. The Quilts of Valor spread across the nation with its mission “to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”

When Catherine Roberts founded QOVF, it took her and volunteers three years to make the first 100 quilts. In 2005, they became a national non-profit and a board of directors was formed. In May 2014, the 100,000th quilt was awarded at Walter Reed; and to date, 252,370 quilts have been given to veterans across the country.

 

Four of the veterans who have received a Quilt of Honor. Back: Steve Weiser & Jim Davis Front: Mike Jochim & Henry Ames.
Four of the veterans who have received a Quilt of Honor. Back: Steve Weiser & Jim Davis Front: Mike Jochim & Henry Ames.

 

The message that accompanies the presentation of these quilts is one of Honor, Thank You, and Comfort:

We Honor your service, we appreciate your willingness to leave all that you hold dear and stand in harm’s way. We know many vets didn’t have a choice, they were drafted, yet they did have a choice - they went.

Thank you. We enjoy freedoms that many of us take for granted. We understand what it took to give us this freedom, your sacrifice. On behalf of all Americans, we thank you.

Comfort. In the past, young men left their homes to fight in the war and most of them took along a quilt made by a family member - these were quilts of comfort, as it was all these men had for warmth and held memories of home.

Kay Dejno is a member of the QOVF Committee for South Central Georgia and for the Lake Oconee Quilt Guild. She and her co-quilters, Helen Perez, Kathy Sands, Rita Baker, Barbara Taylor and Suzy Kurelic, have given over 80 quilts to veterans in this area.

Five of the recipients are Henry Ames, Steve Weiser, Jim Davis, Mike Jochim and Alan Davis.

Now 100 years old, Henry Ames was a young man of 22 when he was drafted into the Army in 1942. Deemed suitable for Army Air Force duty, Henry was transferred to the Army Air Force Technical School in Texas. After instructional training, he was sent for special training on the B-25 Medium Bomber. Transferred once again to Greenville Army Air Base in South Carolina, Henry was the Crew Chief on the B-25’s until the end of the war, when he was discharged at Westover Field in Massachusetts in 1945.

Jim Davis was a paramedic flying MedEvacs for the Air Force for the entire year of 1970 during the Vietnam War. This war was a long, costly and divisive conflict and left 3 million dead, over 58,000 of them Americans. Casualties were high and upon returning, Jim flew in a squadron that flew returning POW’s and all wounded personnel to their homes and hospitals throughout the U.S. Jim received his Quilt of Valor at his home surrounded by friends and he said the experience was very emotional.

Mike Jochim was drafted into the Army in 1966 and after basic and advanced infantry training, was shipped to Cu Chi, Vietnam, where he served in the 1st of the 27th Infantry Division - the Wolfhounds. Upon returning home through California, he and his fellow veterans were called “Baby Killers” and eggs were thrown at them. So, it has taken him ten years to speak of his service.  Mike says “while many people have done a great job in recent years of telling me and the other Vietnam veterans how proud they were of our service, nothing has compared to the pride and the love and respect I felt receiving the Quilt of Honor.”

 

Mike Jochim wrapped in his quilt
Mike Jochim wrapped in his quilt.

 

Steven F. Weiser received his “Greetings from the President of the United States” in October 1967. Training for the Army began at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, then on to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina and Ft. Benning, Georgia where Steve attended the Non-Commissioned Officer Training school and was promoted to Sergeant E-5 in the Infantry.

Henry Ames’ quilt hangs on the wall. He was presented with his Quilt of Valor when he turned 100 years old.

In November 1967, Steve joined the 1st Cavalry Division in Khe Sanh South Vietnam and was assigned Mortar Platoon Leader in B Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry. B Company is an infantry Company and patrolled the jungle in areas of I Corp and II Corp, regions at and near the Cambodian border. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant (E-6), and during his tour was awarded three Bronze Stars (two for Valor and one for Service), the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medals, National Service Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He received his Honorable Discharge in Oakland, California on November 29, 1968 – 728 days after his induction. And on March 29, 2016, Weiser and about 150 other Vietnam Veterans were officially recognized and welcomed home by the Georgia Department of Veterans Affairs and presented a medallion and citation by Gov. Nathan Deal at the Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.

The award of a QOV is similar to a personal award bestowed upon an individual by the military. A QOV has been earned and recipients are nominated based on their selfless service and sacrifice in defense of our Nation. An award has no monetary value; it is priceless.

A full quilt
A full quilt.

 

For further information on the Quilts of Valor Foundation, to become a member, donate or sponsor, or to nominate a service member or living veteran who was touched by war for a Quilt of Valor, please go to qovf.org.

This land is free and home of the brave due to their service; and to all our veterans and those presently serving, we thank you.

This article, by Leigh Lofgren, appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of Lakelife