NESS COUNTY — The quilts were draped over their shoulders, and many of their eyes filled with tears as family and friends expressed appreciation.
Sixteen veterans were honored Saturday in Ness County by Shannon Royer, Otis, and Sandra Vink, Great Bend, both volunteers with the Greater Wichita Area Quilts of Valor chapter.
“The purpose of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to give a quilt to a veteran who has been in combat or touched by war,” Vink said.
Quilts of Valor has grown into a national effort since it first was established in 2003. It since has wrapped nearly 133,000 handmade quilts around deserving veterans.
Renata Kraft, Ransom, became interested in the project and visited with members of the Ransom VFW to organize Saturday’s event, according to Lynette Stenzel, president of Frank Stull American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 152 in Ness City.
“By the time we were done, we had 16 names of veterans,” Kraft said. “None of this could have been done if I didn’t have Steve and June Phelps, Herb Schwartzkopf, John Tillitson and Lynette Stenzel. They have helped me immensely.”
Due to the group effort, not only were numerous veterans honored during a ceremony Saturday afternoon, but beforehand, quilts were brought to those unable to attend due to health reasons.
“As a way to honor you for your service, we would like to present this quilt to you,” Vink said to the veterans before explaining the reason behind the act.
Basil Marhofer, 91, who was shipped as an infantryman to Europe in 1944 and played the French horn in the U.S. Army Band, is being cared for at Ness County Hospital. His condition recently has declined, and unfortunately, he has completely lost his vision.
“Cecilia? Can you see the quilt?” Marhofer asked his wife.
“Yes, I’m here. It’s beautiful. It’s red, white and blue,” she responded.
“It’s red, white and blue? Well, how wonderful,” Marhofer said. “I’m glad I’m still alive. This is marvelous. They’re still doing things for World War II. I can’t believe it.”
Both Allen Musbach, who was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, and Paul Wasinger, who served with the Armed Guard of the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946, were honored in their homes in Ness City.
Musbach, 96, expressed his appreciation and teared up as he said he wished his wife could have been there to see the quilt. She died on Christmas day.
“This means a lot, it really does,” he said.
Wasinger’s wife was able to be with him as he was wrapped in his quilt in their home.
“I really appreciate it,” he said. “Thanks a thousand times over.”
The last stop was made to honor Ross Potter and William R. Squier, both World War II veterans.
“It’s very pretty,” Potter said of his quilt. “This is so nice.”
“We thank you very much,” Squier added.
After all the personal stops were finished, the Quilts of Valor representatives made their way to the Ransom VFW, where an official ceremony took place to wrap quilts around the many other honored veterans as friends and family watched in support. Stories of the men were told in front of those in attendance.
After the ceremony, a “Breakfast for Supper” fundraiser was used to raise money for the Honor Flight program.
“Quilts of Valor are stitched with love, prayers and healing thoughts,” Stenzel said. “Our troops and veterans who have been touched by war are awarded this tangible token of appreciation that unequivocally says, ‘Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor.’ ”
For additional information on the Quilts of Valor Foundation, visit www.QOVF.org.