Quilts of Valor

Quilts of Valor were awarded to 12 veterans on Sunday, April 14, at the Rejda American Legion Unit 273 in Brainard. These gentlemen served America in Korea, Japan, Germany and France during the Korean Conflict.  Seated left to right:  Don Soukup, Raymond Furasek, Francis Novak, Earl Sedlacek, Joe Hanis and Andrew Kobza.  Standing left to right:  Eugene Coufal, Fred Benesch, Don Divis, Leander Stara, Arnold Fiala and Jerome Slama.  Quilts were made by Kathy Bongers and Jeanette Heins.

A dozen Korean War veterans on Sunday received hand-crafted quilts commemorating their service during a ceremony held at the Rejda American Legion Unit 273 in Brainard.

The quilts were provided through the national Quilts of Valor program that since 2003 has accumulated more than 8,000 members and distributed patriotic and unique quilts to more than 200,000 veterans, according to information provided by the Quilts of Valor Foundation.

The war veterans in attendance were unaware of the honor that was being bestowed upon them. The men served in places like Korea, Germany, France and Japan during the Communism-based conflict that spanned from 1950-1953.

“They were very humbled – their families came also and it was really emotional,” said Kathy Bongers, who along with Jeanette Heins, formed the 12 provided quits. “They were so appreciative and so many just couldn’t thank us enough for doing it. They said that they never expected something like that and they were just so appreciative.

“You could tell that their hearts were very full, and their families’, too.”

Heins, of David City, has been sewing Quilts of Valor since 2016. In 2017, her friend, Bongers, joined the movement. Both women are members of the Polk County-based group ‘Stars, Stripes and Stitches.’

Heins started sewing quilts after the passing of her father-in-law, Harold Heins. She witnessed firsthand how moving it was for the World War II veteran to receive his red, white and blue blanket.

“He was very, very proud of that,” she said of his reaction to receiving the gift.

Heins said that the majority of this year’s quilt recipients were from Bruno and Brainard. Many receiving quilts were previously recommended to Bongers, a Brainard resident, and also Heins.

Each quilt, while unique, went through a similar crafting process. Generally, Heins said, it takes about 10 hours to complete each 60- by 80-inch masterpiece.

Just like Heins, Bongers said she has seen the reactions of those close to her after receiving quilts honoring their service and sacrifice.

“A nephew and brother of mine got them in 2017,” Bongers said. “And then I also kind of got interested in helping out because of the group (‘Stars, Stripes and Stitches’) that meets in Shelby.”

Heins said the most satisfying aspect of being associated with Quilts of Valor is the presentation itself.

“There are tears; these veterans really appreciate them and that’s what’s most satisfying for me,” Heins said of when quilts are draped over recipients’ shoulders.

When Heins first started helping with Quilts of Valor, she said that quilts were being made exclusively for area World War II veterans. Now, the group is fulfilling its duty to Korean War veterans.

“First it was World War II, now it is Korean Conflict veterans,” Heins said. “And I guess we will just keep moving on from there.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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