Eight veterans honored for their military service Saturday

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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WEST POINT — Eight Alabama men were honored for their military service Saturday morning at sewingmachine.com in downtown West Point. Each one was given a quilt that had been sewn by the Georgia-Alabama State Line Chapter of the Quilts of Valor.

Six of the men served in the U.S. Army, one in the Marines and one in the U.S. Air Force.

The Army veterans included Kent Felton, Charles Hendrix, Benjamin Hurst, Kyle Mezick, Ned Moseley and Ronald Penn. Dave Forster was in the Air Force and Frank Ray in the U.S. Marine Corps.

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Felton is a native of Jacksonville, Florida and today lives in Phenix City. He was in the Army from 1985 to 2005. This period includes Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991, the military response to the 9/11 attacks by invading Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Hendrix lives in Auburn and is a veterinarian by training. He was in the Army from 1974-76 and was stationed at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Hurst is a native of Valley and a 1971 graduate of Lanett High School. He was in the Army from 1971 to 1973. He was stationed in Korea for most of that time. 

“II was in Vietnam for one day,” he said. “I went there to pick up a prisoner and bring him back to Korea.”

Mezick is a native of Valley and a 2007 graduate of Valley High. He was in the U.S. Army from 2007-2015 and did tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moseley is originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was in the Army from 1982-2002 and was involved in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Penn today lives in Beulah. He was in the Army from 1968 to 1971 and is a veteran of the Vietnam War. He was a mechanic and saw duty in the Charang Valley and in Quin Yon.

Forster served with the U.S. Air Force in Germany from 1975-79.

Ray lives in River View and is a 1966 graduate of Valley High. He was with the Marines from 1966-70 during the height of the Vietnam War.

The program began with State Line Chapter spokesperson Sheila Simpson announcing that she will be retiring from sewingmachine.com in May and that Debra Alexander will be succeeding her as the new moderator for Quilt of Valor presentations. She told the overflow crowd present for the Saturday program that she had thoroughly enjoyed being involved in these programs that honor men and women who richly deserve the recognition they get in the quilt presentations.

“I have been doing this for seven years now,” she said. “I will come back to visit, but Debra is the new group leader. I urge each Quilt of Valor recipient to use their quilt. It’s not meant to be hung on a wall or put in a display case. When you wash it, make sure you use color catchers.”

A recorded version for each branch of service was played. 

“The Caissons Go Rolling Along,” is for the Army, “Anchors Aweigh” for the Navy, “Semper Veritas” for the Coast Guard, “Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder” for the Air Force and “The Marine Corps Hymn for the Marines.”

Alexander read a narrative about the national Quilt of Valor organization. It was founded by Catherine Roberts in 2003. Her son was serving in harm’s way at the time, being involved in the invasion of Iraq. She worried constantly for his safety and one night had a dream of him being haunted by his war demons and then finding comfort in wrapping himself in a quilt. That inspired her to form a quilting group of women making quilts and giving them to soldiers who were serving, or who had served, in combat zones.

It took several years for Roberts and her small group to make 100 quilts, but as other women found out what they were doing more quilting chapters were formed. They went from coast to coast. The number of quilt presentations passed the 100,000 mark in 2014. As of this month, a total of 340,406 quilts have been presented to veterans and active duty personnel. The local chapter has made a special effort to award quilts to veterans of World War II and Vietnam. Those Americans who came of age during WW II have often been called “the Greatest Generation.” Precious few veterans of that war are still living. The Vietnam War was a divisive period for our country.