MILTON — Two Valley veterans each received a Quilt of Valor in separate ceremonies on Saturday from Columbia County Quilts of Valor.
Barry Mabus said he was honored to have received his quilt.
The 73-year-old veteran from Milton received the quilt during a ceremony in front of his friends and family at the First Presbyterian Church in Milton. The quilt was awarded by Bonnie and Jim Fiedler, members of the Columbia County Quilts of Valor.
"I feel humbled," said Mabus. "It's a great honor to receive one of these quilts, and for what it stands for."
Quilts of Valor program, which began in 2003, is a national organization, which has awarded more than 246,000 quilts in the United States and abroad involving thousands of quilters in the U.S. working daily. The outer quilt layer indicates the community and individual contributions, the filler means warmth, comfort and peace and the backing symbolizes the strength that supports the other layers, said the Fiedlers.
Mabus said he is grateful for the friends, family and church peers who came out to support him.
"I made a lot of great friends along the way," he said. "My family has always stood behind me. I'm the oldest of seven children and the only one who has ever been in the service."
Mabus served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968 after being drafted at age 19 and then enlisted the Pennsylvania National Guard from 1974 to 1993. After completing training for a combat infantryman, Mabus joined the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Riley in Kansas before going to Vietnam. The unit conducted search-and-destroy patrols and operations.
After returning from Vietnam, he was sent to Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he was part of a group that participated in the training of soldiers by acting as the enemy. He left the Army in May 1968 as a sergeant and reviewed two Purple Hearts, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Ribbon, the Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal.
Then, in 1974, Mabus enlisted in the National Guard and serve as sergeant's rank with the 3rd Battalion of the 109th Infantry of Pennsylvania's 28th Division located in Milton. The 28th is the oldest continuously serving division in the U.S. Army. During his service, he was called to help in Johnstown after the city flooded in 1977 and received a medal of Humanitarianism for the unit's work there.
"Such experiences are beyond our capacity to comprehend," said Bonnie Fiedler. "But we believe the quilt we award to you has the ability to offer comfort, healing and warmth. We hope that if you experience any dark times or just need the warmth of a grateful hug, you will wrap the quilt around you."
The Rev. Stephen Shirk, the pastor of the church, said he was glad to be a part of the ceremony.
"Thank you, Barry, for your dedication, for keeping us safe, for your valor," he said.
The quilt was pieced by Deb Park and quilted by Debra Windorf.
Veteran enlisted at 16
Earlier in the day, the Columbia County Quilts of Valor presented another quilt to Vietnam War veteran William Geyer, of Lewisburg, during a ceremony at the American Legion in Lewisburg. At age 16, after his father signed that he was 17, Geyer enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1955. As a gunner's mate, he was responsible for all gunnery equipment, large guns and turrets, along with all associated equipment used by the Navy.
He served on the U.S.S. Leyte, U.S.S. Vulcan and U.S.S. Diamon Head where he had access to where nuclear weapons were kept. Geyer was on the Diamond Head during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. What he remembers about that was trying to pass ammunition to the carrier Independence. Ammunition was on the deck ready to be transferred when the carrier changed course. Instead of running parallel, the carrier turned into the Diamond Head gashing the bow, but no one was injured.
He was sent to Vietnam twice: in November 1966 and April 1969. He received the National Defense Service Medal, a Navy Unit Citation, a Navy Unit Commendation, a Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon, a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V,” a Bronze Star with Combat “V,” the Vietnam Service Medal, the Navy Expeditionary Medal and Navy Good Conduct Medal 4 times.