LAKE WYLIE — A 92-year-old World War II veteran was honored on July 4 with a handmade quilt in honor of his service.
“What we are trying to do,” said Keri Stewart, coordinator of the Quilts of Valor Foundation North Carolina chapter, “is cover all servicemen and women, and veterans, with a quilt.”
Clayton Earl Land of Seneca was presented with the quilt Stewart made for him during a ceremony held at Stewart’s mother’s home in The Landing. Land served in the Army Air Core, now known as the Army Air Force, during World War II. He was a tech sergeant and radio operator on a B17 bomber and flew combat missions out of England over Germany, including Hanover, Berlin, Munich, Dresden and Cologne. He joined the service in 1943 and got out in 1945 when WWII ended. He completed 34 missions in those two years.
“They’ve all got their nightmares,” Land said of the missions. “I guess the one where we really got shot up the worst was Nov. 3. We came back, and we had a hundred holes in the airplane. Some of them were just pinholes, but they were still holes. Another one, we got shot up and had to bail out, but we did make it back to England. But they’re all rough.”
Presenting veterans with a quilt comes from the past.
“During the Civil War when the gentleman left for service, all they had to take with them for comfort was a quilt, and it was a memory of home,” Stewart said. “It’s for comfort. It’s a thank you. It’s something tangible they will always have.”
More than 102,000 quilts have been given out since Quilts of Valor’s creation in 2003. The foundation is a nonprofit run solely by volunteers. According to the website qovf.org, Catherine Roberts of Delaware began QOVF when her son was deployed Iraq. She wanted returning troops to have a tangible reminder of an American’s appreciation and gratitude. Since then, quilt squares have come from Louisiana, California and even as far away as Morocco.
“It’s a really great organization, and there are people all over the world that sew for us,” Stewart said.
For those who take part in Quilt of Valor, it’s all about honoring troops home and abroad.
“You might get 10 quilts and send them to a hospital in Germany or Kandahar or wherever,” Stewart said. “Then they bring that quilt home with them. So it makes the whole journey with them. Sometimes they have them in the helicopters, because they need that. It makes them feel like they are at home.”
For Land, however, it’s about remembering those who died during the war.
“The ceremony was great. I never expected anything like this,” he said. “But again, it wasn’t us but the guys that didn’t come back. If you had 10 men on the crew, when you lost an airplane, you lost 10 men that quickly.
“But I thank the Lord I got back,” he said. “I guess I’d like people to remember the ones who sacrificed everything.”
To learn more about the Quilts of Valor Foundation, visit qovf.org.