Cheryl Coyer made her first quilt five years ago for her sister, who was battling breast cancer. She later made a quilt for her veteran father, in honor of his service. When others saw that quilt, they encouraged her to make more for the Quilts of Valor program.
“When I made that first one for my dad, I didn’t know about Quilts of Valor,” Cheryl said.
She has since made four Quilts of Valor quilts, two of which were given to local veterans Sheldon Voigt and Allen Olkieves during a presentation at the Merrill Eagles Club Sunday.
Quilts of Valor quilters may produce military-themed quilts and donate them to the organization, or they may chose the recipients themselves. Cheryl chose Voigt and Olkieves as men she knows and respects; Allen is her father’s cousin and Voigt is a friend of her husband.
Cheryl designed the quilts, which were assembled with the help of her sister, Mary Lezotte, and friend Janice Frenkel. To assist in the design, Quilts of Valor recipients are asked to provide a biography of their service to the quilter. Cheryl said she was moved in reading what the two men had written.
“After you read everything they wrote there, a lot of sweat and tears went into these quilts,” Cheryl said.
Quilts of Valor is a nationwide, all-volunteer organization that has, to date, presented about 130,000 quilts to veterans.
Quilts of Valor volunteer Kathy Krug traveled from Cameron to make the presentations Sunday to Voigt and Olkieves. Krug has done countless Quilts of Valor presentations over the years, but says she still gets emotional when meeting the veterans who deserve the quilts.
“The Quilt of Valor is not a charity quilt,” she said. “It’s a lifetime achievement award.”
Voigt is a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army 101 1st Airbourn Div APO Company E 2d BN (AMBL) from June 20, 1969 to July 23, 1971 and served in Vietnam from Nov 16, 1969 to June 12, 1970.
“Sheldon was a wounded Vietnam Veteran as he was doing his job to protect our country to protect us so we can have freedom and to stay safe,” Cheryl stated. “Sheldon has to deal with this for the rest of his life but is a strong man and goes on with his life.”
He received the National Defense Service Metal, Vietnam Service Metal w/ 2 Bronze Stars, Vietnam Campaign Metal w /60 device, Army Commendation Metal 1/5/0 Bar, Metal Marksman Badge w Rifle Bar 9 M-14 & Pistol Bar (.45), 1s Class Gunners Badge, Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
“This quilt has brought us laughter and tears while making this,” Cheryl said.
Olkieves is a Korean War veteran who entered the U.S. Air Force on Dec. 16, 1953 and retired on May 30, 1974.
“I believe I had to do this to pay my respects back to this special man,” Cheryl said. “There is a lot of tears, sweat in this quilt knowing what Allen has been through.”
Olkieives earned the Outstanding Award, Longevity w/3 Oak Leaf Cluster Award, USAF Conduct Metal w/Oak Leaf Cluster and reached the rank of Master Sgt E7.
“Allen worked on a lot of planes like the transporters, fighters and bombers,” Cheryl said. “He did say that his favorite plane was the B52 Bomber, which we did get that plane on his quilt, maybe not the actually one but a memory of one.”
Anyone interested in donating a quilt to Quilt of Valor or requesting a quilt for a veteran can visit www.qovf.org for more information.