Morrison veteran honored with Quilt of Valor

Ron Wiersema of Morrison, Ill., is shown with the Quilt of Valor he received during a special ceremony Saturday at American Legion Post 328 in Morrison. Charlene Bielema/Herald Editor

MORRISON, Ill. — A Morrison native who served in the U.S. Air Force was presented with a Quilt of Valor on Saturday to honor his service and many years of volunteerism in the community. Ron Wiersema, who served in the Air Force from July 1966 to July 1970, is a member of Morrison American Legion Post 328. During his time in the military, he was a jet engine mechanic working on KC-135s and B-52s. He was stationed in Texas; Columbus, Ohio, where he met his wife, Louise; Thailand for 2 1/2 years and then California. After returning to Morrison, he landed a job at a Sterling, Illinois manufacturing facility and later was a postal worker. Through the years, he became known for his volunteer activities, which included playing the role of Santa in the community and serving as an active member of his church. He also participates in the Post's Honor Guard for funerals and parades. His volunteerism led to his nomination, made by Emma Schroeder, for a quilt through the Quilts of Valor program.

As he looked around the Post's meeting room wrapped in his quilt, Wiersema said he was honored and humbled. "There are so many veterans that are just as worthy as I am," he said.

The mission of the organization, founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. In the early days of the organization, the primary focus was to award quilts to service members wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The first Quilt of Valor was awarded in November 2003 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg in Iraq. By 2009, any warrior who had been touched by war, no matter when his or her service, could receive a Quilt of Valor, according to the Quilts of Valor Foundation's website. Terry Austin of Moline, Illinois, who leads the Quad-City Quilts of Valor chapter, presented the quilt to Wiersema at Saturday's ceremony. She said once a nomination is made for a quilt, the organization sends the approved request out to the selected chapter for the quilt to be made and distributed. More than 60 volunteers sew quilts for the Quad-City chapter, which will make at least 250 quilts this year; another 50 already are slated to be made in 2020, Austin said. The quilts must be at least the size of a lap blanket and no larger than a twin size. They also must be 100% cotton, but can be any color. The goal is to have each veteran feel the warmth of healing that comes with being wrapped in the quilt.

"We want to thank you for your service and welcome you home," Austin said.