As Paul Scroggs tugged at the quilt wrapped around his shoulders, he said with a wry smile, “I wish I had this in Korea.”
The comment drew laughs and nods from some of the other Korean War veterans seated Sunday morning in front rows at Central Baptist Church, 785 Main St., Gainesville. They know what Scroggs was referring to — dangerously cold Korean winters.
Each of the vets got a quilt from On Eagle Wings, Hall County’s Quilts of Valor sew group, which is part of a national effort to make and present “comforting and healing” quilts to veterans.
Since 2003, some 108,000 have been handed out nationwide, said Betty Heathman, an Oakwood resident who serves as the Hall group’s leader.
“We’re trying to reach as many as we can,” she said.
The group meets the second Thursday of each month at Central Baptist, which also serves as the meeting spot for Korean War Veterans of Georgia, a Hall-based veterans group.
Catherine Roberts of Delaware started the national group, Quilts of Valor Foundation, when her son was deployed to Iraq. She wanted to “see that returning warriors were welcomed home with the love and gratitude they deserved,” according to the group’s website.
Roberts said she believed the quilts would serve as “a tangible reminder of an American’s appreciation and gratitude.”
Heathman said the work is satisfying “and very emotional.”
She said she had talked with the Korean War vets beforehand about the presentation “and they were all excited to get their quilts.”
The group is giving quilts to 26 group members. Many of those received quilts during the church service, taking place two days before Veterans Day.
Others will get their quilts during the group’s Christmas party, said Peggy Johnson, the sewing group’s presentation coordinator.
During the service, each veteran stood as his name was called and walked to the front, some needing the help of a cane. Each man was wrapped in a quilt that had been unfolded by the sew group members.
After saying thanks, the men walked back to their pews.
At the end of the church service, Scroggs, the veterans group’s president, told the congregation, “I thank the Lord I was able to serve him all my life and to serve my country, and I know my group feels the same way.
“So, God bless America.”
Veteran Freeman Willis said he appreciated the recognition by others for his service to the country.
“I served on the coast of Korea for almost three years, bombarding the coast and all that,” he said.
Veteran James “Ed” Clark said the recognition is especially nice since Korea “was known as a conflict and not as a war. We all know it was a war.”
John Sapp said his father, Donald Sapp, also enjoyed the recognition. He added that his father is just now opening up about his service the 1950-53 war.
“Growing up, he didn’t talk as much about being in the Marines and Korea,” John Sapp said. “But as he has gotten older, he has really talked more about it, so we’re learning more and more things about his time over there.”
And so, the family has been attending similar events, such as at the Northeast Georgia History Center.
“He was moved today, too,” John Sapp said. “This just really means a lot to him.”