Best Birthday Ever! - Veteran receives Quilt of Valor

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Frank Phippen (left), commander of Lemka-Stendel American Legion Post 106, presents Ken Dettbarn, Elkader, with a Quilt of Valor. The presentation was part of Dettbarn’s recent 50th birthday celebration.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


A Northeast Iowa man celebrated a recent milestone with a special surprise: During a family dinner for his 50th birthday, he was presented a Quilt of Valor honoring his military service.

Linda Dettbarn arranged the surprise for her husband, Ken. Though the Elkader couple’s entire family knew about the presentation, they managed to keep it a secret.

“I arranged to have (Frank Phippen) arrive as we finished our meal,” Linda said. “I announced to Ken only a few minutes prior that we were expecting a special guest.”

Frank is commander of the local American Legion Post. Vicki Swensen, Quilt of Valor coordinator for Iowa, suggested to Linda that she invite Frank to make the presentation.

“I thought it was perfect since Ken is a member of that post,” Linda added. “Vicki made the initial contact with him and I followed up with the specifics.”

Linda was introduced to the concept of the Quilt of Valor through an earlier article in the Clayton County Register. She used an online process to nominate her husband. The request was forwarded to Swensen who lost no time getting in touch with Linda. 

“When the date drew closer, she mailed the quilt, which she had helped to make, directly to me,” Linda explained.

Ken served in the Army for 22 years before retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer. He was honored and humbled by the presentation, though he feels other veterans are more deserving. His family disagrees. Linda is so proud of his service to our country that she has made space in the couple’s home to display other honors Ken earned during his illustrious military career.

“I have designated a large section of wall in our front hallway as a military honor wall to display the quilt and a large shadowbox containing his unit patches, medals, ribbons and other framed certificates,” she said.

Linda had high praise for the talented women who create Quilts of Valor. Ken was appreciative, as well, but also extended his gratitude to his family members.

“I really want to thank my family and especially wife,” he said. ”Military spouses are the backbone of military families and hold the family together when soldiers deploy in times of war. They deserve every bit as much credit as veterans do.”

Information on Quilts of Valor is available online at

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