EmVP: Quilts of Valor stitches its gratitude for veterans

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COLUMBIA - Dan White hasn't always been proud to recognize himself as a Vietnam veteran.

"Things weren't very good when we came home," White said. "I wouldn't wear anything military 40 years ago. Nothing. Zero." 

So when a friend nominated him to be honored by Mid-Missouri Quilts of Valor, he was skeptical.

"I was a little hesitant," White said. "There's an overall feeling by Vietnam vets that no one really cared."

But, the ladies behind the local chapter of Quilts of Valor do care. They spend hours making handcrafted quilts for veterans just like White.

"They very much deserve to be noticed in a special, special way," Jan Martin said, the Mid-Missouri Quilts of Valor President.

Martin started the local chapter 10 years ago. She's retired from the VA Hospital and her husband served in the Army, making veterans extra important to her. 

"Veterans are special people. They sign up to defend us and our country. They don't ask a lot of questions. They go where they're told," Martin said. "It's important to recognize them in some simple way."

White ended up deciding to go to the ceremony to receive his quilt from the group in 2012. 

"You can give guys all the medals you want for being a hero, but receiving something like this just in a way supercedes that. So, it's really a tremendous gift. I treasure it," White said.

Since White got his quilt, more men and women have joined the Quilts of Valor ranks. 

The local chapter held its most recent ceremony the weekend before Veterans Day. There, the quilters presented veterans with a one-of-a-kind quilt.

"When you wrap up in a quilt, you just feel warm and loved, and that's exactly what we're hoping they feel," Teri Haney said, a volunteer with Mid-Missouri Quilts of Valor.

Veterans from all military branches and different times of service were awarded quilts and welcomed home.

The ceremony was emotional for Vietnam veteran Charles Hawkins.

"I was overwhelmed. I almost started crying. I really did," Hawkins said. "I knew that these ladies had by hand touched this and did it for me."

Hawkins already has a spot picked out for his new honor.

"Right on my bed, just as soon as I get home," he said.

"The thing that makes a person want to belong to Quilts of Valor, it's seeing a veteran get a quilt," Martin said.

The organization makes the quilts thanks to donations and volunteers. The group meets once a month at Satin Stitches in Columbia to work on them.

To learn more about getting involved, nominating a veteran or contributing to Quilts of Valor, click here. The local chapter also shares its work and photos from award ceremonies on its Facebook page.