Family and friends gathered at the Thomaston-Upson Archives as World War II veteran Harville Shepherd and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Jeffrey Anderson were awarded Quilts of Valor on October 29. Quilts of Valor honors service members and veterans who have been touched by war.
Shepherd served in the European Theatre of Action with the U. S. Army’s 174th Field Artillery. He fought in five major battles, receiving battle stars for each one: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes/Battle of the Bulge, Central Europe, and Rhineland.
Anderson was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the 121st Infantry Regiment of the 48th Brigade Combat Team of the Georgia Army National Guard. He served in Iraq for a year from 2005-2006. In May 2005 his unit began deploying to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and experienced some of the fiercest combat actions in the campaign. During the first half of the brigade’s deployment to Iraq (Spring 2005 through Spring 2006), the 2–121st spent much of its time of the region of Baghdad. The unit’s focus shifted during the second half of the deployment to a theater security mission primarily consisting of convoy escort and civilian military operations.
Quilts of Valor began in 2003 when Blue Star mom and quilter Catherine Roberts had the idea of comforting veterans with quilts during the time her son was deployed in Iraq. Since then, over 126,000 Quilts of Valor have been awarded here in the United States, and in Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Frances Brooks, the Georgia State Coordinator, presented the handmade quilts to Shepherd and Anderson, who were nominated for the awards by friends, in a ceremony at the Thomaston-Upson Archives. She said the Quilts of Valor Foundation represents one human being reaching out and touching another, without judgment, reaching out with acceptance and with an acknowledgement of service to the nation in very trying circumstances. She said the quilts are awarded, not handed out like magazines or videos.
“This quilt brings you a three-part message from our hearts,” Brooks told the veterans. “First, we honor you for your service. We honor you for leaving all you held dear 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 you, and this quilt is meant to say ‘thank you’ for your sacrifice. And finally, this quilt is meant to offer comfort to you, and to remind you that although your family and friends cannot be with you at all times, you are forever in all of our thoughts and our hearts.
“For those of us who have never seen combat or been in a war zone, such experiences are beyond our capacity to comprehend; but we believe the quilts we bring to you today have the ability to offer both comfort and warmth. We hope when you experience dark times or need the warmth of a grateful hug, you will wrap your quilt around you so it can provide the comfort we have sewn into every seam.
“On each quilt is a label and there is a note from the quilter that accompanies this quilt,” Brooks added. “As of today, the story of this quilt becomes your story. We hope you will keep this quilt with you as a tangible reminder that there are thousands of women and men across this land that are forever in your debt. And so, on behalf of the Quilts of Valor Foundation and a grateful nation, with our deepest appreciation, we thank you for your service to our country with this Quilt of Valor Award. Thank you, and, most importantly, Welcome Home.”
Brooks presented the quilts to Anderson and Shepherd, wrapping them in the quilts and reminding them that the quilts are given to be used, and not to be hung up or framed and displayed on a wall.
Shepherd spoke for himself and Anderson when he stated that the war was a long time ago, but that it is never over. He went on to recall finding a Nazi flag when he was in Germany and bringing it home. Years later, in 1995, he gave the flag to ULHS history teacher Gary Gill to use in helping his students to understand what went on during World War II.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a non-profit organization that accepts tax-deductible contributions. One quilt can cost up to $250 to complete, and the contributions are used to buy fabrics for quilt tops and backing, and to pay for batting and shipping. For more information on making donations or nominating a service member or veteran for a quilt, see their website at www.QOVF.org
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.