On the morning of June 25, the Oneonta Senior Center was abuzz with the sounds of friendship, the aroma of coffee, and the clatter of dominoes. The center’s director, Robbie Hulgan, greeted each person at the door with a smile and information about the ceremony that would soon take place.
Along with members of the Senior Center, fire chief Kenny Booth and fellow firefighters attended. The morning was dedicated to a ceremony in which Oneonta veterans Covie Jones (World War II), Juan Garcia (Vietnam), and Lewis Byers (Desert Storm) were honored by the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
Quilts of Valor volunteers, Lynn and veteran James Hales, officiated the ceremony. They travel around the state honoring and serving the brave men and women who have sacrificed for their country.
Lynn said, “Our mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. Our core values are to treat people with respect, promote excellence, to value service over self, and to be accountable.”
Lynn proceeded to share information about the importance of military families and how much they sacrifice when loved ones leave for war. She recounted her own experience of when her father left for World War II. “My father said, ‘You are part of the support team. You stay home with mama and your brothers and keep the home fires burning.’ And so I did. We did. Most women do what they can to support their men.”
James gave a powerful talk about what it means to be a veteran. “Being a veteran means lying in bed in fear knowing that you are leaving for basic training the next morning. Being a veteran means having a deep love for your country.”
He then called the two honorary veterans to the front of the room. “Sergeant Juan Garcia, front and center! Sergeant Lewis Byers, front and center!” The audience laughed as the two men quickly made their way to the front, smiling.
Each man was presented a certificate from the Quilts of Valor organization. Then, they were cloaked in their intricately made patriotic quilts. Suzy Smith voluntarily sewed the quilts and was proud to gift them to the men. Both families were there to support and celebrate. The third honorary veteran, Covie Jones, was unable to attend.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation was started in 2003. Founder Catherine Roberts had a dream of a young soldier haunted by war demons finding relief in the comfort of a quilt. Currently, the organization has given 221,785 quilts across the United States. For more information, go to the Quilts of Valor website at www.qovf.org.