Chesterton Tribune



Town of Chesterton veterans honored with Quilts of Valor

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How does one say Thank You to the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces?

One way is to sew them a quilt: a symbol of home and hearth, a gift of solace and peace.

Last week, Flo Schneider, Sylvia Rhein, and Claire Williams of the String-A-Long Stars & Stripes Quilts of Valor Group of Northwest Indiana presented a Quilt of Valor to each of the nine veterans employed by the Town of Chesterton.

“Our mission is simple,” Schneider said. “To cover service members and veterans who have been touched by war--not necessarily physically or emotionally, just touched--with comfort and healing in the form of patriotically themed Quilts of Valor.”

The honorees:

-- Mike Billings (Park Department), U.S. Marine Corps 2000-04. Stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Okinawa; and Iraq. Duties included maintenance of amphibious assault vehicles.

-- Voluteer firefighter and former assistant fire chief Doug Shearer (Fire Department), U.S. Navy 1972-76. Beachmasters Unit 2, Little Creek Amphibious Base, Norfolk. Va.

-- Volunteer firefighter John Walding (CFD), U.S. Army and Indiana National Guard. Combat medic.

-- Jerry Graves (Utility), U.S. Army 1986-2007. Infantry, with service in Panama, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

-- Sgt. Chris Swickard (Police Department), U.S. Marine Corps 1994-98. Security Force, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. Stationed at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Georgia; Camp Pendleton; and Okinawa.

-- Cpl. Aaron Miersma (CPD), U.S. Army 2008-16. Infantryman, fire team leader, and squad leader.

-- Sgt. Antonio Alfaro (CPD), U.S. Army 2001-03. U.S. Army Security Forces, Fort Derrick, Md.; and Raven Rock Mountain Complex, Pa.

-- Officer Nolan Mancera (CPD), U.S. Army, four years. Executive officer, armorer unit, Fort Knox, Ky.

-- And Town Manager Bernie Doyle, U.S. Air Force 1972-75. Aerospace and structural firefighter, Strategic Air Command, Wyoming; and Tactical Air Command, NATO, England.

Each one of the nine quilts presented to the town’s veterans was handmade by one or more quilters and is unique, with the veteran’s name on the quilt label. Each one is also a physical embodiment of String-A-Long Stars & Stripes’ threefold purpose.

“First, we honor each veteran for their service to our country,” Schneider said. “We honor them for leaving all they hold dear and to stand in harm’s way in a time of crisis, protecting us from the effects of war. Next, our quilters know that freedom is not free. The cost of our freedom is the dedication of lives of men and women like them, and this quilt is meant to say Thank You for your sacrifice. And finally, this quilt is meant to offer comfort to them, and to remind them that although their family and friends cannot be with them at all times, they are forever in all of our thoughts and our hearts.”

"We feel that a Quilt of Valor represents a civilian equivalent of a Purple Heart award,” Schneider added. “Our quilts are awarded, not just handed out, and to say Thank You for your service, sacrifice, and valor in serving our nation.”

After the presentation, Sgt. Swickard expressed his gratitude. “The amount of work that went into each quilt is amazing, and then the fact that they do it out of the goodness of their hearts means so much,” he said. “It really is something special and I am truly grateful for the ladies that took the time to think of me.”

“What an extraordinary group of women to take on a task with the singular focus of honoring military veterans through the sewing of quilts,” Town Manager Doyle said. “It was an honor to stand with my fellow co-workers from the Town of Chesterton who have worn the nation’s uniform. The gesture is emblematic of a time in our nation’s past when we were more civil, tolerant, compassionate, and--dare I say it--patriotic. The quilts bind us together symbolically with a common fabric, each with a unique pattern and purpose.”

Doyle noted that one of his brothers, a decorated and combat-wounded Marine who served in the Vietnam War, received his own Quilt of Valor some years ago. “It had a profound effect on him, as he was one of those veterans shunned by many in the general public on his return, simply for being in the military in those tumultuous times. For my brother, the presentation of the quilt was a kind of closure. I suspect it is for many of the veterans who receive them.”

The Quilts of Valor Foundation was founded in 2003 by a Blue Star mother, Catherine Roberts, who sewed a quilt for her son after he deployed to Iraq. Since then, more than 600 local chapters have been established in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, and more than 260,000 Quilts of Valor presented.



Posted 12/16/2020




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