Veterans Day ceremonies in Homer began with a parade in downtown Homer, continued with a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center and ended with a poignant celebration of local vets when the Kachemak Bay Quilters presented seven Quilts of Valor to those who served in peace and war.
Iraq War veteran Robert “R.J.” Carlough, one of the quilt recipients, served in Iraq from 2003-04. He was a Bradley Fighting Vehicle driver, and got hit by rocket propelled grenades or his vehicle blown up by improvised exploding devices eight times “and not a scratch on me,” he said.
Carlough said he recently came to appreciate the significance of Veterans Day.
“It didn’t really hit me until today,” he said.
On his mind was the memory of three of his comrades killed in battle on Nov. 8, 2003, in Iraq. Carlough wears a metal band with the names of his friends: Mark Vasquez, Gary Collins and Ryan Young. On the anniversary last Friday, Carlough connected with friends on social media to remember them.
“It was a rough day for all of us,” he said.
After a lunch honoring local veterans at the Homer Elks Lodge, the Kachemak Bay Quilters presented the Quilts of Valor. Quilter Patrice Kant said the Quilts of Valor Foundation started in 2003 when founder Catherine Roberts had a dream while her son, Nat, was deployed in Iraq. Roberts saw a young man tormented by the demons of war and then saw him wrapped him a quilt. His demeanor changed from despair to hope. She started a program where people would make quilts and give them to veterans.
Since then, more than 235,000 quilts have been presented nationally, and almost 2,000 in Alaska. Receiving quilts on Monday were:
• Carlough, U.S. Army First Division, 16th Infantry, 2002 – 2010. He received a combat infantry badge and a presidential ribbon from President Obama. He is an expert rifleman. His quilt was pieced by Shirley Svoboda and quilted by Karrie Youngblood.
• Thomas Youngblood, U.S. Air Force, 1955-59; reserves to 1963. He served at the end of the Korean War and in Europe. His quilt was made by Eileen Wythe.
• Robert Fimon, U.S. Army, 1981-1985, and U.S. Air Force, 1985-1992. He received an Army commendation medal, a joint military accommodation medal, and two Air Force accommodation medals, and the Southeast Asia campaign ribbon. His quilt was pieced by Karol Miller and quilted by Karrie Youngblood.
• Nicholas C. Varney, U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. Varney joined in 1965 and served in Korea, Edwards Air Force Base in California and the Alaska Air National Guard. He was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal for superior achievement and another with an Oak Leaf Cluster for superior performance and a Meritorious Service Medal for Outstanding Scientific Achievement. His quilt was pieced by Linda Wagner and quilted by Karrie Youngblood.
• Norman Mosher, U.S. Navy, 1958-1984. He commanded ships in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. In 1963 he was assigned as Senior Advisor to the Junk Force, Third Coastal District, a fleet of 100 wooden junk ships and 1,000 paramilitary sailors, the Junkmen. The Junk Force patrolled the South Vietnamese coastline to interdict Viet Cong. His awards include the The Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, a second Legion of Merit award, the Bronze Star with Combat “V”, the Air Medal, various unit commendation awards, the Combat Action Medal, and campaign ribbons and awards from the Republic of Vietnam.
This quilt was made for Norm by his wife, Jan, and features the emblem of the legendary Junk Force and a symbol of the flag of the Republic of Vietnam.
• Troy Wise, U.S. Army, 1966-71, including two tours in Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry division as a a door gunner and a Huey helicopter pilot. His quilt was pieced by Janet Bacher and quilted by Karrie Youngblood.
• John Benya, U.S. Army, 1965-1966. Benya served in Vietnam and received the Purple heart. He was nominated for his quilt by his daughter, Joy Davis. His quilt was pieced by Carol Renfrew and quilted by Karrie Youngblood.