COEUR d’ALENE — Lumps caught in throats as Quilts of Valor North Idaho coordinator Jerene Kindley gently placed a handmade quilt on World War II veteran Roy Wargie.
"God bless you," she said to him softly. "Thank you for your service."
She leaned in and hugged the 96-year-old WWII veteran, who accepted the quilt Friday as she straightened it over his lap.
Wargie's daughter, Sue Stokey of Hayden, shared that her father always said it was by the grace of God that he survived the war. He was one of the brave men who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
"He had shrapnel go through his shirt and he wasn't hurt," Stokey said. "It did not cut him; he didn't get injured. And men around him died."
Wargie and four other American heroes were honored with handmade quilts Friday during a Quilts of Valor ceremony at Pacifica Senior Living in Coeur d'Alene.
Red, white and blue decorations adorned the hearth of the community house where friends, loved ones and veterans gathered.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 889 Color Guard presented the colors before Kindley addressed the crowd.
"I’m here today to award Quilts of Valor to some very special veterans for their service and their sacrifice to protect and defend our freedom," she said. "We all enjoy that freedom, every day."
Wargie, Navy veteran Carl Thienes, Navy veteran Guy Poorman, retired Air National Guard veteran Bill Trono and retired Navy veteran Edward "Whitey" Feightner were awarded with the symbolic quilts. Each quilt is unique, representing the unique journey each man made in his service to his country.
"It's gorgeous, and I know because my grandmother made a lot of quilts," Feightner said. "I know how much work goes into those."
Feightner, 98, served 42 years in the Navy and earned the status of admiral. He said he earned the nickname "Whitey" because he couldn't tan on a ship, so that's what the guys called him.
"It's true, I don't suntan," he said with a grin.
During his military career, Feightner became the leader of the Blue Angels, the Navy's flight demonstration squadron.
"That was the No. 1 aerobatic team at that time. Anything you can do in an airplane, we did," Feightner said. "I never had a problem getting dizzy."
He said he joined the service when he was about 19 "because they let me fly an airplane." He said he was pleasantly surprised to be awarded a Quilt of Valor and appreciates the honor.
"You know, we were lucky," he said. "A lot of people did a lot more than we did but they got shot down and we didn’t. We got shot up a little bit, but we didn’t get shot down.”
Kindley said each quilt takes volunteers about 100 hours to make and it means the world to her to be able to recognize local heroes this way. The Quilts of Valor Foundation's mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with the comforting and healing quilts.
"It gets very emotional sometimes," she said. "I feel very honored to do this, very proud to be a part of the Quilts of Valor organization."
Quilts of Valor North Idaho is in need of volunteers to continue its mission. To donate fabric, help sew quilts or learn more about Quilts of Valor, contact Kindley at 777-0474 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.qovf.org.