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Quilters honor local veterans

Local quilters have found a way to honor veterans.

A quilting group has presented Quilts of Valor to several veterans in the area.

Among those receiving quilts were: Paul Nelson, of Scandinavia; Russ Kamine, of Iola; Keith Penny, of Waupaca; Jake Roloff, of Waupaca; and Herold Peper, of Manawa.

Nelson recalls receiving his Quilt of Valor from a former classmate, Sue (Erickson) Preuss, of Ogdensburg.

“It was very emotional,” he said.

Pruess told him the quilt was in honor of his service during the Vietnam War and for his heart transplant on July 4, 2004.

“My heart problems were 100 percent the result of Agent Orange,” Nelson said.

Kamine was touched when he received his Quilt of Valor on Thursday, Oct. 31.

“It’s nice to be thought of and recognized for my service,” he said.

Kamine served in the U.S. Army from 1966-69 as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne. He served five months of a 13-month tour in Vietnam before being wounded.

“We were all in the Vietnam era, and when we came home we were not appreciated,” Peper said. “You didn’t tell anyone you were in Vietnam. Everybody was against the Vietnam War and the people who served over there. That was tough.”

He noted even the families suffered and sacrificed when they had someone serving in Vietnam.

“Then you get something like this,” he said about the Quilts of Valor.

Peper said it is a different way of life in the service.

“You learn to appreciate things more,” he said.

“It is an honor and a joy to be able to present one of these quilts to a deserving veteran,” said Nancy Oftedahl, of Iola.

She organized the local quilting group which gathers once a week to work on quilts.

“When I became aware of this program, I wanted to participate,” Oftedahl said.

Her goal was to make quilts for two veterans: Keith Penney and Jake Roloff, both of Waupaca. Her husband, Al, had worked with Penney for many years at the Waupaca Foundry, and Roloff has been friends with both her sons since childhood.

“These two veterans are a generation apart, but it struck me that in my lifetime, our country was involved in two major wars,” Oftedahl said. “I remember the stories about World War II from my parents and their relatives and friends.”

Determined to begin a Quilts of Valor group, she encouraged her current group, the Tuesday Quilters from Northland, to get involved.

“We began a journey of making quilts for veterans close to our hearts,” she said.

To date, Oftedahl reported that most of the quilts are completed, but a few more remain to be finished and presented.

Penney did three tours in Vietnam beginning in 1965. He was in the U.S. Navy for nine years and served 14 years in the Reserves and then the National Guard.

Roloff served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2006 through 2010. He did two tours to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.

“It is a really great gift to get,” Roloff said. “It gave me a warm feeling, and I appreciate it a lot.”

The project hit a little closer to home for Patricia Johnson, another local quilter.

“This one is for my daughter,” she said as she displayed an almost finished quilt. “She joined the Navy Reserve during her junior year in high school, and went to boot camp before her senior year. She then went on to serve 22 and 1/2 years in the Navy Reserve.”

Johnson’s job will not end there.

“My next Quilt of Valor is going to be for my daughter in the Army,” she said.

Her daughter Lynette Arnhart joined the Army Reserves during her senior year of high school. She then received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. She served in Afghanistan and is currently at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Arnhart graduated from Clintonville High School in 1985, and her sister JoEllen Hadel graduated from CHS in 1987. Hadel currently lives in Rock, Mich.

Herold Peper, of Manawa, was surprised when he received a Quilt of Valor. He had noticed his wife, Julia, working on quilt squares at home, but never dreamed it was for him. His daughter in Michigan did the backing for the quilt.

“It was quite a surprise when Nancy handed the quilt to me,” Peper said. “They were doing it right under my nose.”

A veteran of the U.S. Navy’s submarine service, he remembered admiring the destroyers, aircraft carriers and submarines he had seen on the quilt backing. He also noticed the Navy emblem on the quilt squares.

“I saw it in process and never imagined they would be handing that quilt to me,” he said. “There were a lot of hands and a lot of love put into this quilt.”

Peper served aboard submarines from 1965 through 1969 during the Vietnam War. Often, his tour of duty would be three months under water, then three months at home with his family.

He joined the Navy when he heard his draft number was coming up. Peper preferred being in the Navy so he could see different parts of the world. During his submarine duty, he was stationed in Pearl Harbor and Guam.

“I traveled many miles around the world, but under water,” he said. “So all I ever saw was Pearl Harbor and Guam.”

He did not regret volunteering to serve on nuclear submarines, which included one tour of duty on the USS Plunger and seven on the USS Tecumseh.

“It’s very interesting duty,” he said. “It’s a lot different than the regular Navy.”

Peper had chosen to serve in the Navy versus the Army because he felt it was safer and still a way to serve his country.

“In the Vietnam War, you might only be there for two weeks and then you were coming home in a body bag,” he said.

“In war, somebody might win, but everybody loses,” he added. “All wars are bad, but the Vietnam War changed the attitude of this country.”

Though his submarine missions took him to the Vietnam area, Peper found he did not qualify for special veteran benefits and medals from that war. His missions on the nuclear subs were classified as “top secret.”

Anyone can create a Quilt of Valor for a veteran and have it registered through the Quilts of Valor Foundation.

“You get your friends together and say ‘wouldn’t this be fun,’” Oftedahl said.

The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover all combat service members and veterans touched by war with Quilts of Valor.

To date, the foundation, with the help of local chapters, has donated close to 91,000 quilts to veterans and service personnel.

For more information, visit the Quilts of Valor Foundation’s website at www.govf.org.

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