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Quilts of Valor

Group of six veterans, from different eras and different branches of service, receive warm honors

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Vietnam-era Army veteran Kenneth Tuel, of Fort Dodge, neatly folds his Quilt of Valor Saturday afternoon after being presented with it during a brief ceremony at the Ringland-Smeltzer House by members of the Fort Dodge Area Quilters, who crafted the quilts for the veterans. Veterans Don Christopherson, of Duncombe, at left, Dr. James Chestnut, Fort Dodge, and William Hoover, also of Fort Dodge, had just been given theirs.

With the wind blowing cold gusts of air around outside and the mercury staying low in the thermometer, Saturday’s weather was the perfect backdrop for honoring a group of veterans with nice warm quilts.

Not just any quilt either but carefully handmade Quilts of Valor crafted by the members of the Fort Dodge Area Quilters.

Club President Carol Deckert spoke before presenting them at the Ringland-Smeltzer House Saturday.

“We’re proud to present our vets with a quilt this afternoon,” she said. “They’re stitched with love and healing thoughts.”

They’re also supposed to be used.

“These are to use,” she said. “We don’t want you hanging them on the wall.”

Six veterans were awarded the quilts; four were able to attend the afternoon presentation.

Don Christopherson served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1972.

Club member Mary Almond shared his biography.

“Initially he served as a medic at an army evaluation hospital in Fort Bragg,” she said. “After nine months, he was sent to Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon where he continued to serve as a medic.”

Christopherson graduated from Iowa State University once home and he currently farms near Duncombe and Lehigh.

Club member Nancy Griffel read Dr. James Chesnutt’s biography.

“In 1971 her received a commission into the U.S. Army where he served nine years as a social work officer,” she said.

In 1980 he earned his Doctor of Psychology degree. He served 11 years as a clinical psychologist. His last five years in the military were spent at Fort Ord in California.

“He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal,” she said. “The highest award given in peacetime.”

Chesnutt became a minister after his service and served as pastor of five churches. He also established a private practice in Fort Dodge. While officially retired, he still serves the First United Church in Farnhamville and the Somers United Methodist Church.

Carol Heatherington shared William Hoover’s biography. He was a Navy SeaBee.

He had a rotten birthday once.

“He spent his 18th birthday in a fox hole on Guam,” she said. “Bill’s father signed for him to join the service at 17.”

After the war ended, he was sent to Japan.

Back in the states, he married Ruthie Hanson; they were married 65 years before her death.

“He has lived a long happy life,” she said.

In 2014, Hoover traveled to Washington, D.C., on the second Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight.

“He thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said.

Vietnam War Army veteran Den Tuel, of Fort Dodge, almost didn’t make it home.

Lynn Kroger shared what happened in his biography.

“He flew helicopters to support the guys in the field,” she said. “They were hit by a rocket while delivering supplies. Three were killed and three were hurt badly.”

Kroger served from 1967 to 1969. After returning home, he worked for a family member as well as Northern Propane and Land’o’Lakes.

After he was given his quilt, draped over his shoulders by several club members, he returned to his seat but he didn’t sit down right away.

Instead, he stood, folded the quilt neatly and broke into a big smile when he caught the eye of a relative in the audience.

Army veteran Jesse Lara, of Fort Dodge, served from 1963 to 1966.

He became a paratrooper assigned to the 173rd Brigade and was deployed to Vietnam.

Lara was given his quilt earlier in the day in a smaller ceremony that filled the available room with family members.

Terry Lubeck, of Fort Dodge, served from 1969 to 1971. Club members presented his quilt privately later in the day.

He was deployed to Kon Tum Province for 10 months.

“That time was spent in constant hand to hand combat in the mud,” his biography reads. “No breaks.”

Lubeck came home after 11 months in Vietnam and went to college.

Life hasn’t been easy for him.

“He ended up on the street,” his story reads. “He went through a lot of hardships, before, during and after his service. He suffers a lot physically, emotionally and mentally with severe PTSD.”

It continues.

“Now he is enjoying his life as much as he can, driving his Camaro and playing his piano.”