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Let us not forget, veterans earned those quilts

Lead Summary

There are events that we cover pretty much every single time they happen. Town festivals, the fair and the first day of school, just to name a few.
As I walked from my car to the band shell at Mikkelson Park on Sunday, I realized I could probably add Quilts of Valor presentations to the list; after all, I’ve been to numerous Quilts of Valor programs over the year — mostly in New Hampton but also in small towns like Nashua and Lawler, too.
Some would argue they are basically the same, and they wouldn’t be wrong.
A program put on by the Freedom Strippers, the chapter out of Chickasaw County, that has presented veterans scores of quilts throughout the years, follows the same format.
The National Anthem is played. The Pledge of Allegiance is recited. A minister says an opening prayer. A chapter member gives a little history of Quilts of Valor. And quilts — all of them stunning and meaningful — are presented to veterans.
Refreshments are served. Families gather to congratulate their “favorite” veteran. Stories are exchanged. And then everyone goes home.
Yet, each and every program is different.
Because although the quilts are always like I said stunning and meaningful, the veterans are different. 
Maybe because I am a military brat — I was born in what was then West Germany, where my dad was serving a tour — I’ve always been partial to veterans.
Dad traveled the world in the Air Force and missed God knows how many Christmases and birthdays with his family back on the farm in little Gibbon, Minnesota. He left my mom one day in October 1962 and told her it might be a while before he saw her. A week later, the rest of the world learned about the Cuban Missile Crisis. When I was a learning to walk, he missed a year of my life because he was in Vietnam.
So as I stood among the crowd Sunday afternoon, I thought of my dad and realized each of the 16 men up on that band shell stage had missed Christmases and birthdays and gone to some of the most dangerous places in the world.
I think that’s what gets me every single time. The men and women on those stages at Quilts of Valor programs remind me of my father. 
I appreciate the fact that each and every person on that stage Sunday afternoon sacrificed something — a career, family time, their health, their time — to serve our country.
So as I write this column this afternoon, I want to thank the Freedom Strippers (seriously, is that like the coolest name ever for a quilting group) for bringing comfort and healing to men and women who remind me of my father.
The programs they put on are short, simple but oh so powerful, and I can’t imagine how much time these women and men invest in those quilts that can’t be bought but only earned.
And I want to thank the latest 16 veterans for their time, their efforts and the sacrifices they made for people like me.
Those men on that stage Sunday afternoon included:
• Army Spec. 4th Class John A. Slick.
• Army Spec. 4th Class Dennis M. Ungs.
• Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevin Stone.
• Army and Army Reserves Sgt. James Leroy Herrmann.
• Army and Army Reserves Pvt. First Class Gary J. Ries.
• Army Spec. 4th Class Dan Kipp.
• Marine Corps Cpl. Randy E. Heying.
• Army Reserves Spec. 5th Class Dave Christoph.
• Army National Guard Maj. Tony D. Christoph.
• Navy 2nd Class Petty Officer Sheriton Dettmer.
• Navy 2nd Class Petty Officer Dale F. Tilkes.
• Army Spec. 4th Class Aaron Tilkes.
• Air Force Senior Airman Daryl Steinlage.
• Marine Corps Cpl. Brent Alan Steinlage.
• Army Sgt. Jon Schoenfeld.
• Air Force Capt. Ken Long.
To all 16 of you, it was an honor to watch you receive your quilts. You earned them. And we thank you.

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