Veterans receive Quilts of Valor

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Local veterans Ivan Melcher, Don Havelick, Julius Dettmann, George Balekos, Fred Heins, Sheryl Zittergruen, Jerry Kruse, Ed Parker, Bruce Lenth and Steve Russett received Quilts of Valor at Monona Hay Days June 20. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Steve Russett helped plan the event and was surprised to learn he was also a quilt recipient. Here, he hugs organizer and quilter Diana Parker.

Veteran Jerry Kruse, who was honored with a Quilt of Valor June 20, shakes hands with a little girl and her father following the presentation during Hay Days.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Ten area veterans were honored with Quilts of Valor at Monona’s Hay Days celebration June 20. Since its inception in 2003, when quilter and blue star mother Catherine Roberts came up with the idea of using quilts to comfort veterans while her son was deployed in Iraq, the Quilts of Valor Foundation has awarded over 119,000 quilts to service members and veterans touched by war. 

Quilts of Valor volunteer Joni Johnson, of Decorah, helped local quilters Diana Parker, Sheryl Mielke and Glenda Henkes (who made many of the quilts along with The Six Patch Quilt Group) present the quilts to Korean War veterans Ivan Melcher, who served as a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army with the Second Infantry Division; Don Havelick, who served as a corporal in the U.S. Army with the Third Infantry Division; Julius Dettmann, who served as a private first class in the U.S. Army with the 17th Infantry Regiment; and George Balekos, who served as a corporal in the U.S. Army with the 69th Signal Battalion. Also honored were Vietnam vets Fred Heins, who served as a petty officer third class in the U.S. Navy with the Navy Mobile Construction Battalion No. 7; Sheryl Zittergruen, who served as a specialist fifth class in the U.S. Army 31st Engineer Battalion; Jerry Kruse, who served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army with the 173rd Airborne; Ed Parker, who served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army with the 25th Infantry Division; Bruce Lenth, who served as a private first class in the U.S. Army with the 82nd Airborne; and Steve Russett, who served as an aviation electronic technician in the U.S. Navy.

“They are the true heroes of our country,” said Johnson of the honorees. “The Quilts of Valor come from the heart of community members. They’re a tangible thing you can wrap around yourself and know someone is thinking of you. We may never know the depth of your sacrifice, but this award is meant to honor your service and serve as a continual reminder of our appreciation.”

Diana Parker, whose husband, Ed, was honored, helped organize the event. She described the ceremony as touching and humbling and noted how appreciative the veterans were of those who went through an unplanned reception line following the event, thanking the veterans for their service. She said it was especially touching to award a quilt to Russett, who also helped plan the event, not knowing he was going to be a recipient.

Parker said she and other local women hope to continue making and awarding quilts. If anyone is interested in getting involved with the Quilts of Valor Foundation or would like to make a donation, contact her at (563) 539-4241.

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