Throughout life, people go through hardships and times of rough waters. For veteran Linus Schwagle, the choppy waters he experienced during his time of service were some of his fondest memories.
Schwagel, who lives in Mortons Gap, was a chief radioman in the U.S. Navy for 22 years, 14 in the regular navy, and eight years in the reserves. Thursday, he was honored with a Quilt of Valor.
The Quilt of Valor Foundation is an organization whose mission is to honor service members and veterans who’ve been touched by war, said volunteer Marsha Hardin.
“Our foundation represents one human being reaching out and touching one another without judgment in which you have the acceptance and acknowledgment of your service to our county,” Hardin said while presenting the quilt to Schwagel. “We will go wherever we can to find these veterans to awards these quilts to them. Each quilt is an expression of gratitude meant to thank and comfort you, the Quilt of Valor unequivocally says thank you for your service and sacrifice and valor in serving our nation.”
She said since beginning in 2003, the QOV Foundation has presented over 252,000 quilts. The quilts have a three-part message; first, they are meant to honor the recipient’s service. Second, it recognizes that freedom comes at the cost and dedication of that service, and lastly, the quilt provides comfort for the veteran.
“Each stitch that holds the layers together represents the love and gratitude and sometimes tears,” she said. “We believe that as we sew, caring and gratitude flow from our heart through our hands into the quilts. All of us as quilters want you to know that you are forever in our hearts.”
As the quilt was wrapped around him, Schwagel, while holding back tears, told Hardin and fellow QOV volunteer Vicky Ayer, that they don’t know how much this meant to him.
Schwagel said it represents the respect people have for veterans.
“This shows appreciation for the veterans and what they did for them, whereas a long time ago, like with Vietnam veterans, they looked down on them and gave them a hard way to go,” he said. “And now, seeing what the veterans actually did and they’re showing their appreciation.”
Schwagel said he had been drafted in high school when he was a senior but was too young. He later enlisted.
“I wanted to go anyway. I always wanted to be in the service,” he said. “Being in the service was doing my part as a U.S. citizen.”
Schwagel’s granddaughter, Tanya Winston, wrote the QOV about a year ago to see if her “Pap-paw” could receive one. She filled out an application, and they’ve waited for it to be made.
“The quilt’s been everywhere getting patches put on it by different people,” Winston said. “Usually, they have a dinner for them and fly them someplace to pick their quilt up. But, because of the pandemic now, they said if he wanted to wait, he could, or they could just bring the quilt here.”
After sailing the world, Schwagel said his ex-wife, who was from Barbados, had a sister who lived in Greenville, and they wanted to live closer to her. He said they moved to Hopkins County where he worked at GE in Madisonville. He started in maintenance repairs and worked his way up to the maintenance manager before retiring in 1996.
The next generation of citizens thinking about joining the service, Schwagel said, should keep in mind the words of President John F. Kennedy — “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
“U.S. citizens ought to be proud. They aren’t going to find a better country,” Schwagel said. “I made 15 cruises of the Mediterranean, and I hit almost every country over there. The first time I went and came back, I kissed the ground when I got off the ship. That’s how proud I was of the United States.”
To learn more about the QOV Foundation, visit their website at www.QOVF.org.