DUE TO NEGATIVE public sentiment surrounding the Vietnam War, many in the nation stood by with crossed arms and disapproving frowns when U.S. troops returned from Vietnam.
Decades later, one national organization has taken steps to flip that attitude and show appreciation for veterans from Vietnam and other conflicts. Quilts of Valor, a national organization that gives comfort to veterans via handmade quilts, honored two L-60 (Peoria, Illinois) retirees by presenting each with a Quilt of Valor in honor of their military service. Veterans Jack Cooper and John C. Williams were celebrated at the local’s regular union meeting Jan. 6.
Recent Local 60 retiree Scotty Miller heard about Quilts of Valor through his volunteer work with Flags of Freedom. That group sponsors four, 30- by- 60-foot flags on 153-foot poles, flying at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Route 26 in Princeton, Illinois, to honor past, current and future military.
“You never know what’s going on with an individual that fought in a war,” says Miller, who nominated both Cooper and Williams. “A lot of vets came home and got kicked and spit at when they returned. This was my way of saying thank you.”
There was no recognition for Williams when he returned after serving in the Navy during Vietnam. He says he’d like to see all service members receive a quilt.
“It was very tear-jerking,” Williams says. “It hit home. They did a wonderful job on it. I kindly appreciated it.”
Cooper, a former U.S. Marine, served in Korea and Vietnam. “I believe wholeheartedly in serving your country,” says Cooper, who was honored to receive the quilt. “Especially the way things are in the world today.”
Terry Johnson, who heads up Quilts of Valor in the Illinois Valley, says the organization, founded in 2003 in Iowa, quickly grew to all 50 states. After making and giving way dozens of quilts, she sees the difference it makes in the lives of veterans, many of whom have never received acknowledgment or thanks for their sacrifice.
“These people served and sacrificed for our country,” she says. “So we wrap quilts of hope and healing around them. They open up after receiving the quilt.”