May 17—Four local Vietnam War veterans received comforting, handmade quilts on Monday as tokens of appreciation for the sacrifices they made a half-century ago.
Hollsopple residents Randy Roberts (Marine Corps) and Theodore Szapka (Marine Corps), along with Army veterans Lawrence Illig, from Ferndale, and Randolph Smith, from Jerome, were presented the blankets as part of the Quilt of Valor program.
Roberts, Szapka and Smith knew about the ceremony in advance.
But Illig thought he was going to The Galleria to spend time with his granddaughter at the small playground located on the first floor.
Instead his family had a surprise for him.
As they approached the play area, he noticed a group of people gathered.
Illig, who spent a year flying helicopters during the Vietnam War, received his quilt during a brief ceremony. "I never in a million years thought this was going to happen," Illig said.
Roberts said the quilt was "really special."
Quilt of Valor is a national program that provides handmade quilts to service members and veterans who have been touched by war. The blankets are made by local volunteers, in Johnstown's case a group called the Qwazy Qwilters.
"Quilts of Valor are awarded; they're just not handed out," said Pat Wilson, a local volunteer quilter.
Szapka said getting the blanket "makes you feel real good that you weren't forgotten."
Smith, a Purple Heart recipient, felt it was "great" for the volunteers to make the quilts and thanked "the ladies for somebody recognizing all those years."