We started a little later as it was Sunday and I had told the QOH crew that since Sundays are always slow, we could go later. We got there about 9:30am and boy was I wrong. We couldn’t even get the booth set up and they were buying pins and t-shirts. Flo, Debbie and Laura started our morning and we gave out our first quilt by 10:00 am and it just kept going.
After every quilt we would walk away and say boy, he needed a quilt. The one that I can’t get out of my mind is an Army veteran. When I took his hand he started to shake and he said, “oh no, give it to someone who deserves it” and started to cry. I said, “Sir, you deserve this, welcome home”.
We could catch the veterans by their hats or our good friend, Rick, would recon for us and bring them back to our booth and them not even knowing why they were coming to see us. He ran into an old friend and found out that he had served two tours in Iraq so he brought him over. When I shook his hand he started to cry and said it’s been 50 years since anyone said thank you. Flo, Rick and I were hugging the guy.
I saw a guy walk through the gate and he was walking so proud and all of his family were following him. I told the crew that there’s one and we will get him when he comes back. A few minutes go by and here comes Rick in the golf cart with the Veteran in the front seat and the whole family following. We gave him a quilt and you can see in the photo of the whole family from great grandkids and up. He was from Oakdale, CA, served in the USMC and had three Purple Hearts. You could see this family loved their father and grandfather and that they were patriotic and proud. That made us feel good.
I was sitting in the booth, and it didn’t happen too often that I got to sit, when I hear a voice say, “she doesn’t remember me”. I looked up and it was Ken who I used to work with. We were great friends but had lost touch. I knew he was a Navy veteran and had served in Vietnam so I awarded him a quilt and also his friend who was also a Vietnam veteran. It was so great to see him. He has PTSD and has a service dog, too.
The wife of one veteran we gave to, his wife said we couldn’t have done a better job as he has prostate cancer from Agent Orange. We met so many veterans and their stories were so emotional but we knew when they walked away with that quilt, it was a day they would never forget and a visit to Stockton, CA that was memorable.
I know I have only told a few stories but there were so many. I want to thank my QOH crew who spent time in the heat – to Rick and Val who drove 1 ½ hours for three days to help us, and Laura who came from Fremont. It was a joy to have each one of you share time with us.
Quilts of Honor has gotten a good reputation and many people stopped by to say thank you and to keep up the good work.
To Karl Ross Post 16 and VFW Post 52, thank you for letting us be a part of the staff and share in the experience of the Vietnam Moving Wall.
Stay tuned for the closing of the Wall tomorrow.