Quilt of Valor ceremony held, military vets honored for their service

Eight military veterans were presented with a Quilt of Valor in a ceremony at the Middlesboro Community Center on 30th Street recently.

According to the Quilts of Valor website, “A Quilt of Valor is a quality, handmade quilt that is machine or hand quilted. It is awarded to a Service Member or Veteran who has been touched by war. The Quilt says unequivocally, thank you for your service and sacrifice in serving our nation.”

Those awarded a quilt during the ceremony on Saturday include Bobby Bennett, Raymond Welch, William Smith, Wilber Wade, James M. Spradlin, Patrick Marsee, Samuel Wansley, and Dillard Barton.

Raymond Welch, who was among those awarded a quilt, spoke about the recent ceremony during a telephone interview on Wednesday.

“Because of COVID, they haven’t been able to do ceremonies,” Welch said. “I think I was nominated sometime in 2019.”

Welch was commissioned through the R.O.T.C. program at Eastern Kentucky University, graduating in 1964. He went on active duty with the U.S. Army in April of that year, serving in the infantry. He spent two tours of duty in Vietnam and another four years in Germany, as well as serving stateside at Ft. Benning and Ft. Carson among other locations. He was on active duty for approximately 16 years.

Welch mentioned multiple people helped make the ceremony happen, including Director of Small Business Development at Southeast Technical and Community College Samuel R. Coleman Jr. and Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson.

According to Coleman, who served in the Marine Corps and is also a previous quilt recipient, Quilts of Valor State Coordinator Carolyn Elliot contacted him about several veterans who had not yet received their quilts.

“The mayor (Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson) stood up and said we could use the Community Center,” Coleman said.

Coleman said with the help of other veterans, they put together the necessary equipment to stage the ceremony.

“Carolyn Elliot gave the speech,” Coleman said. “She rounds up all the quilts.”

Welch pointed out the quilts are put together by volunteers.

Coleman commented on what drives the Quilts of Valor program.

“It’s unconditional love, and these days we don’t run into that a whole lot,” Coleman said.

Coleman added every veteran who received an honorable discharge from the U.S. military is eligible to receive a quilt.

“I have applications with me at all times,” Coleman said.

Coleman said any veteran who would like to receive a quilt can contact him at 606-269-2290. Another way to nominate a service member or living veteran is to go to the Quilts of Valor website at https://www.qovf.org/nominations-awards/