FOREST CITY | Vietnam veteran Jerry Whitehurst said the best thank-you for his service he ever got was the Quilt of Valor he received earlier this year from Mary Hanson of Forest City.
"It was quite an honor," said Whitehurst, a 1966 Forest City High School graduate who now lives near Ollie in southeast Iowa.
"It was probably the most recognition I ever received since I came home from Vietnam," he said.
Whitehurst's wife, Jane, is Steve Hanson's sister. Steve's wife, Mary Hanson, pieced the quilt.
"I was inspired to make the quilt after seeing the emotion in the eyes of both Jerry and Rose Miller (another of Steve's sisters, who also served in Vietnam) at Operation LZ in Forest City," Mary said, referring to the August 2015 homecoming celebration for Vietnam veterans.
Unfortunately, Miller -- who was exposed to Agent Orange while she was in Vietnam -- died in November 2015 before Mary could make a quilt for her.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation was created in 2003.
The mission of this non-profit organization is "to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor," according to its website.
Jerry, 71, who served in First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, was in the military police.
He had road check point and convoy escort duty in addition to police duty at the base camp where his unit was stationed.
The base had a helicopter pad, which made it a prime target for North Vietnamese bombs.
The base was hit two and sometimes three times a day during the nine months he was there.
"You never got used to it," he said.
But everyone had a job to do and they just carried on, according to Jerry.
After returning from Vietnam, Jerry worked at a telephone company and then served as an officer with the Forest City Police Department for a few years before moving to Clarion and joining the police force there.
He later began working for the First Mississippi fertilizer company at Bradford. He was later transferred to Richland, located just east of Ollie.
Mary presented Jerry's Quilt of Valor to him during a birthday celebration for Norma King, Steve and Jane's mother, in Forest City this summer.
The Whitehursts and many other relatives and friends were at the party.
Everyone kept the quilt a secret from Jerry until the presentation so he would be surprised.
And he was.
"I was shocked," Jerry said.
He said Mary spent "hours and hours" making it.
The quilt, which includes his name and the years he served in Vietnam, is now displayed on a wall in the living room of his home.
"A picture doesn't really do it justice," he said.
The quilt was particularly meaningful because it was made by someone who knew him, according to Jerry.
"It's not a random quilt," he said. "It's a personal thing."
More than 200,000 people in all 50 states have received Quilts of Valor created by volunteers.
The requirements for material type and method of quilting are strict to ensure high quality.
Patterns and blocks can be of any design suitable for a patriotic theme.
The school district where Jerry lives holds a Veterans Day program every year and invites the public.
Jerry said he's attended this program and seen Quilts of Valor presented to other veterans.
"It's a nice gesture," he said.
For more information on the Quilts of Valor Foundation, visit www.qovf.org.