'Forever in your debt': Hawkins WWII vets honored with Quilts of Valor

Jeff Bobo • Dec 19, 2018 at 5:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Rogersville American Legion Post 21 honored its members with a warm meal Tuesday for Christmas, but six World War II veterans also received a warm extra “to go.”

The Rogersville chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation awarded quilts with patriotic designs Tuesday to six Hawkins County World War II veterans who attended the Legion’s Christmas dinner.

Quilts of Valor will be delivered to the county’s eight other known surviving WWII veterans who were unable to attend Tuesday's ceremony.

The quilts were made and presented by Lena Hewitt and Jean Elkins, who are also members of the Rogersville-based Happy Hearts Quilt Guild.

The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.

Post 21 Vice Commander Dennis Elkins said it’s long overdue for the county’s diminishing WWII veteran population to be honored in this way.

“They’re called Quilts of Valor, but to these ladies and to me they’re quilts of honor and quilts of valor, and quilts of appreciation for everything that you guys did for our country, and what you left us as a rule to go by," Elkins told Tuesday’s recipients. “Our country needs those rules now worse than anything. You laid down the path for us to travel, and we’ve kind of gotten sidetracked, but hopefully we can get back to what you guys left for us.”

Elkins added, “These ladies have put a lot of love and a lot of stitches in these quilt tops, and they did this over about a month’s time. They’ve really worked hard at it.”

Among the WWII veterans in attendance to receive their quilts were James Alley, 96; Larkin Delph, 91; James Klepper, 93; Ralph Bass, 89; and Sherman Whitaker, 98.

Stokley Trent, 91, attended the dinner but had to leave early and was awarded his quilt prior to the ceremony.

As is tradition with Quilts of Valor, the quilt was draped over the shoulders of the recipient.

“We honor our World War II veterans of the American Legion and thank you in no small way for your service to our country,” Hewitt said. “As young men, you left your homes, your families and your friends to enter into an unfamiliar world of military service. At times you were alone, lonely, afraid, hot, cold, wet, and sometimes among hostile and unwelcoming people and places. Still you held true and fast to the oath you took upon entering the military to support and defend our Constitution.”

Hewitt added, “You have seen things we did not want to see and had to remain strong to do what needed to be done to keep our country safe and free. For all you may have endured, we truly and humbly thank you. Without your sacrifice and service, we would not enjoy the freedom and liberty we do today, and we are forever in your debt.”

Surviving Hawkins County WWII veterans who were unable to attend and will have their quilts delivered had their names read aloud during the ceremony.

They included James Arnott, 91; Everett Hatch Sr., 91; Leon Gladson, 92; Jack Smallwood, 91; Roosevelt Smith, 97; Robert G. Williams, 98; Joseph Baker, 93; and Dana Fields, 93.