Wayne County Ohio Fair Honoring Hometown Veterans
Several months back, I attended the Northeast Ohio Quilt Show in Wayne County (Ohio) hosted by the Tree City Quilt Guild. Not only were there many vendors for shopping and quilts on display for inspiration; the Guild was promoting their 3rd year where about 100 Wayne County Ohio Veteran Residents would each be awarded a Quilt. The Ceremony, sponsored by the Honoring Our Patriots’ Service (HOPS) Committee will award one-hundred (100) handmade Quilts to Wayne County Veterans which takes place in September on the last day of their (Wayne) County Fair. Click here to read about our visit to the NE Ohio Quilt Show.
Honoring Our Patriots’ (HOPS) Service Ceremony
After seeing the many Quilts on display at the Northeast Quilt Show in July and talking with several Tree City Quilt Guild & HOPS Committee members about the Quilts; I was moved by all the hard work, deep affection and passion that went into making a quilt for an Veteran. Knowing the time commitment, and labor of love that goes into making just one quilt: I knew I would be back to not only witness this thankful award ceremony but to show my appreciation for the Wayne County Veterans’ service. I loved how the HOPS Program is about acknowledging, honoring and saying Thank You to the Veterans of all ages; regardless of peace time or war that might not ever have had a deserving welcome home.
Wayne County Heroes Honored in HOPS Ceremony
The HOPS Quilt Award Ceremony was held Thursday 09/14/2023 at the Wayne County Fairgrounds Coliseum, and was hosted by Greg Long; Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army. In addition, the ceremony included a musical performances by Todd Patterson and the guest speaker this year was Captain, U.S. Army & U.S. Marine Corps, Ken Kitchen. Kitchen said that “… every role in the Military is important, whether during peace time or war.” He continued, talking about the Vietnam War, stating Vietnam was under attack by the Communist and the United States were liberators. He urged us to “… talk to your children, your grandchildren, anyone who will listen…”. Remind them that “Freedom is not free; the cost of freedom is extremely high.” Kitchen concluded with “May God Bless you all and may God Bless America.”
Meeting Vietnam War Veteran, Jim Winkler, U.S. Army
I silently watched, soft tears in my eyes as one hundred deserving Veterans one by one received their quilt and posed for pictures. Some wore big smiles, others displayed a stoic demeanor, while other Veterans were visibly emotional. One thing that was very evident with every recipient, was their gratitude and appreciation for not being forgotten.
Following the ceremony, I met Jim Winkler, U.S. Army who served in the Vietnam War from 1971-1972; for roughly 15 months. Today Jim, a Dairy Farmer since the early 1970’s when he purchased his Grandfather’s farm will tell you he will never retire. He is the proud father of five children and thirteen grandchildren; and will be celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary this December with his wife, Joan. On most days, Jim is up by 2:30am to begin the first milking and would go all day long and doesn’t let his Parkinson’s diagnoses stop him. He remains active in his community and enjoys spending time with his family.
I was curious to know and understand what Jim thought and felt about receiving a Quilt of Honor; I was interested in talking about the ceremony. Jim began talking about the days leading to his departure fifty-two (52) years ago. In 1971, at just nineteen years of age, he was selected via the lottery (what we also knew as the draft) drawings where he had to go to the Post Master to pick up his letter in person. He continued, “… on that 18-hour flight …”, many of the men were talking with ease. When the announcement was made that they would be landing in Saigon within an hour, everything changed. The air was heavy, the mumbles of conversation ceased. “You could hear a pin drop. We were all scared”; Jim began to share as the tears in his eyes streamed down his face. I could feel his fear in his voice from all those years ago; I cried along with him. He said that once they landed, they spent the night in the bunker for safety while still at the airport because they did not know if they were going to be shot or killed.
During his service, Jim was a heavy machine operator; building roads during the War where he was exposed to a powerful tactical herbicide for vegetation control, known as Agent Orange. The isolation of the war continued for Jim. He went on to explain at Mail Call when his name was called, another serviceman recognized him and called to him. They were high school classmates from a small Village In Wayne County, Ohio. “We both cried and hugged one another” he stated as Jim and I continued to share our tears.
As it turns out, during the Quilts of Honor ceremony, his fellow high school classmate serviceman and three others from the same village received their Quilts together in the same ceremony. Jim stated that receiving a Quilt was “Nice; (they) never forgot us. I often get cold in the evenings and can use this quilt to cover up.” While Jim didn’t exactly say, I think it brought him joy to receive his Quilt of Honor with his hometown heroes alongside him. I was so grateful and appreciative of Jim sharing his time in the war with me. I can honestly say, it is an honor to have met Jim and his family. Thank you for your sharing your experience with me.
These quilts represent our heartfelt appreciation. It is an expression of gratitude meant to thank you and comfort you. The Batting represents warmth. It is our hope it will bring you comfort, peace and healing. The Backing represents strength that supports the other layers; strength of the recipients, their families, our communities and our Nation. Each stitch represents what holds it together; the love, gratitude and sometimes tears of the maker.