WaKEENEY — In the living room of their home, Don Williams sat in his motorized wheelchair.
Surrounded by 12 friends and family, he had no idea as to what everyone in the room was there for early Saturday afternoon. Nearly two months after the ceremony originally was scheduled to happen at the WaKeeney Veterans Cemetery, when Williams was to be presented with a Quilt of Valor, the time had finally come.
In December, the quilt presentation had to be canceled because of inclement weather that produced icy roads.
During all of the time in between the originally scheduled presentation and Saturday, Williams had no idea the moment was coming.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” said Williams, a U.S. Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War and was in the service for 20 years.
“I didn’t expect anything like that. It’s really an honor.”
While in the military, Williams served as a Green Beret and Army Ranger. During a conflict in Lebanon in 1985, he was shot in the back, relegating him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
“I thought my life was over,” Williams said, remembering those moments in Lebanon.
On Saturday, everyone in the Williams home was there in respect and to honor the man who served the United States with his military service.
The Quilts of Valor was a foundation started in 2003. It is a way in which veterans of war the United States has been a part of are honored with a quilt that service members are wrapped in during a presentation. Chapters of quilt-makers have been established throughout the country. More than 130,000 handmade quilts have been presented, then draped over a veteran.
Renata Kraft, who has made several of the quilts from the Quilts of Valor presentations in northwest Kansas, was on hand to conduct the short ceremony. The quilt presented to Williams was made by women from the Wichita chapter for Quilts of Valor.
After the presentation, Kraft talked to a group of people at the house. She relayed a story about one World War II veteran she has presented a quilt to and what it meant to him.
“He said to me, ‘This means more to me than those medals,’ ” Kraft said of what the veteran told her. “He pointed behind me, and there was a shadowbox he had (with his medals in it). I just couldn’t flat comprehend why this blanket meant more to him than those medals.”
It was a friend of Krafts who was a veteran himself who explained to her why the presentation of the quilt honoring the soldiers was so special.
“He said, ‘You don’t understand that, Renata?’ ” Kraft said of the conversation with her friend. “I said, ‘No, I can’t fathom that.’ He said, ‘When we came home, no one ever said thank you. They don’t want to talk about it. … To know that somebody took time doing this, this means a lot to him.’ ”
The presentation to Williams was full of emotion. As Kraft began the presentation, with Williams next to her, she started to speak, giving an explanation of the foundation. As she read, the 12 family and friends listened and a few had tears in their eyes.
The moment was touching to Williams as he sat and the quilt was draped around his shoulders.
“Congrats, brother,” one man from the audience said to Williams.
Williams’ wife, Teressa, approached her husband, giving him a hug and kiss, smiling. She had kept the secret this was going to happen.
“I love you,” she told him.
A veteran who served the U.S. military in Japan, Thailand, Republic of China, England, Germany, then Lebanon, Williams’ father died in WWII at the Battle of the Bulge. His mother didn’t want him to join the military.
As the guests started to leave the house, a friend approached Williams.
“I just wanted to shake the hand of a hero,” he told Williams before leaving. “Thank you for all you have done.”