Two Marshall County men who served during the Vietnam War were each honored with a Quilt of Valor during a ceremony Saturday afternoon at the Marshall County Public Library in Benton.
Keith Ragan, who was a sergeant of tactical operations with the U.S. Army, served from 1967-1972 and served in Vietnam from 1968-1969. Robert Aubrey, who served with the U.S. Marine Corp, served from 1965-1968, a portion of which he served in Vietnam.
Both men, as part of the traditional Quilts of Valor ceremony, were wrapped with handmade quilts donated by Laura Mezger of Marshall County, and then wrapped in a hug. Rep. Chris Freeland assisted Mezger in awarding the quilts during the ceremony which was hosted by Quilts of Valor volunteer, Dr. Arnold Krause.
Aubrey said the emotional moment was "in the top 10" of the happiest of his life and noted, "It's a lot better than what I got when I came home." He also said he "for sure" plans to use the quilt.
Ragan said he felt as if he was accepting the quilt on behalf of the many veterans who deserved gratitude and honor but never received either.
"You try to keep this stuff in perspective because more than anything, you're seeing people show respect and honor to people that didn't get it when they came home from Vietnam," he said. "I'm accepting this on behalf of all of them, not just on behalf of myself."
Freeland thanked both men for their service to their nation, state and county, saying he hoped the small token of appreciation brought them comfort. He cited a revised quote from President Ronald Reagan saying, "Some people spend their whole lives wondering if they've made a difference in the world, but veterans never have to wonder."
Krause said since 2003, more than 240,000 handmade quilts have been awarded to U.S. veterans. Each quilt is hand-crafted and donated by volunteers and there is no charge to the recipient.
He said Quilts of Valor began in 2003 with Catherine Roberts, who had a dream while her son Nat was deployed with the U.S. Army in Iraq. In the dream, she saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over, permeating a feeling of despair.
"I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter," she recalled. "Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and wellbeing. The quilt had made this dramatic change."
More information about the Quilts of Valor Foundation is available by visiting qovf.org.