Quilts of Valor comfort local veterans

Pictured are the veterans at Legacy Place in Waterloo who were honored during Saturday’s Quilts of Valor ceremony. (Sean McGowan photo)
Pictured are the veterans at Legacy Place in Waterloo who were honored during Saturday’s Quilts of Valor ceremony. (Sean McGowan photo)

Sixteen local veterans received the greatest comfort American citizens can give to thank them for their service during Saturday’s Quilts of Valor ceremony at Legacy Place.

Immediately prior to the Stars of Honor chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation bestowing hand-sewn quilts on the veterans, Julie Yeager shared a few words of appreciation to the veterans. The Waterloo VFW Color Guard presented the colors to kick off the event.

“Each of us (in Stars of Honor) has their own reason for participating in this program,” she said. “But we all share a desire to welcome home and thank each service member to whom we present a quilt. 

“We have deep respect and admiration for all veterans, no matter the branch of service, no matter the time, circumstance and place of that service. And each of us is keenly aware of the sacrifice required by that service, both on active duty and post-deployment, to the military member and their family.”

Yeager also touched on the importance of showing appreciation to veterans.

“In this day and age there is a real danger that the service will go unrecognized, unappreciated, and perhaps even forgotten,” she said. “The Quilts of Valor Foundation is working to make sure that veterans are remembered, thanked and honored for their sacrifice.

“It is our profound hope that each quilt will serve to remind you and others that your sacrifice has not been forgotten.”

Quilts of Valor are said to represent the highest honor American citizens can bestow on veterans touched by war. The quilts consist of three layers:

• The top of the quilt, with its many colors, shapes and fabrics, represents the diversity of those honoring the veteran

• The batting is the center of the quilt. Its warmth represents the hope that the quilt brings comfort, peace and healing to the individual receiving it

• The backing is the strength that supports the other layers. It represents the strength of the recipient, as well as the support of family, the community and the nation

Additionally, the stitches that hold the layers together symbolize love, gratitude and the tears of the maker. 

Every Quilt of Valor includes a label on the back with the recipient’s name, date of the award and the names of the makers of the quilt.

As each veteran came up to receive his quilt, Yeager shared background information on the veteran, including such information as his length of duty and branch of service. She also shared a personal anecdote from their time in the service.

For instance, Bill Newgent, who served in the Air Force during World War II, had an interesting story about how he began his service.

“Bill waited several months to receive his draft notice and became very anxious when it did not come, so he joined on his own,” Yeager read.

The rest of the group included WWII veteran Charles Ceaser, who served in the Merchant Marines; WWII Air Force veteran William Davis; Army veteran Virgil Hellberg; WWII Army veteran Merrill Kirchhoefer; WWII Air Force veteran Howard Ludwig; WWII Army veteran Richard Noelken; Air Force veteran Robert Papaik, who served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam; Korean War Air Force veteran Charlie Cameron; Korean War Navy veteran Harold Hawkins; Korean War Army veteran Earl Niermann; Korean War Army veteran Wally Remiger; Korean War Navy veteran Merlyn Sinn; Korean War Air Force veteran Lee Trost; Korean War Army veteran Urban Wittenauer; and Vietnam War Navy veteran Don Bertram.

Sinn said the quilt he received is “wonderful” and “beautiful.”

“It will be put to good use,” he said.

Additionally, Noelken said he loves the way his quilt looks.

“The detail on here is beautiful,” he said, adding that “the recognition is just outstanding. Absolutely amazing.”

The group recognized four more veterans during a Tuesday night ceremony at the Columbia American Legion. Korean War Navy veteran John Kinane, WWII Air Force veteran Charles Lepp, Vietnam Army veteran Gary Raskaup, and Vietnam Army veteran Gregory Smith received quilts at the hall.

Stars of Honor works with Warm N’ Cozy Quilting in Columbia — an official Quilts of Valor shop — to make the quilts. Debbie Chitty, co-owner of the quilt shop, said one quilt is easily worth $150.

For more information, or to nominate someone to receive a Quilt of Valor, go to facebook.com/StarsofHonorQOV, or qovf.org. World War II veterans and those with life-threatening illnesses will be prioritized. In addition, Yeager said Stars of Honor serves those outside of the county.

Stars of Honor is locally funded and in need of donations, Yeager said. To contribute funds to materials for the quilts, email Yeager at jyeager416@gmail.com, or drop off a donation at the drop box at Warm N’ Cozy, 235 N. Main Street in Columbia.

A donation form for the group shows that every dollar can help. For instance, the form shows that $1 is enough for a label for a quilt and $20 will pay for the batting of the quilt.

If anyone is interested in helping sew quilts, contact Yeager. 

She ended Saturday’s ceremony with some encouragement for the veterans.

“We hope you will use (your quilt) and display it as a badge of honor and gratitude with our acknowledgement of the personal cost of your years of active duty in the military,” she said. “We pray that in some small way it will bring you peace and comfort in years to come.”

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