Last year, Donald Henke received a Quilt of Valor as a token of gratitude for his service in the Vietnam War.
"It completely took me by surprise," Henke said of the gift. "They were just passing out quilts, and my name was called ... I had no idea they had one for me."
Now, the quilt adorns his bed each day, and Henke said he loves studying the intricate embroidery at the center of the quilt, depicting an eagle's head and the words "Land of the Free Because of the Brave."
"The feeling just overwhelms you," Henke said of the moment he received his quilt. "I never dreamt I'd be getting something like that."
On Saturday, 18 fellow veterans will receive their Quilts of Valor in a ceremony in Lawton. Donna McCormack, Oklahoma state director of Quilts of Valor, will present the blankets, which she has lovingly stitched with her own two hands.
"We do this to thank veterans for putting their lives on hold to serve our country," said McCormack, who is often joined at the presentations by her husband, Robert, a disabled veteran and two-time recipient of the Purple Heart from his two tours of Vietnam.
McCormack, who lives in Fort Cobb, Okla., has given her time and talents to Quilts of Valor for seven years, stitching "well over 1,000 quilts."
"I really like the quilts to be red, white and blue, that's very important to me that they are patriotic in color," she said. "I also like them to tell a story."
McCormack has presented quilts to 99-year-old World War II bombardiers, Navy veterans who served on the U.S.S. Cole when it was attacked by Al-Qaeda and the youngest soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I like to present (the quilts) in person," said McCormack, who's handed out quilts one at a time and to groups of veterans numbering 53 at once.
"I tell them if they wear it out I'll make them another, but they're not going to, I make 'em good," she said, laughing.
This is certainly not the first time McCormack has presented quilts to veterans in the Lawton-Fort Sill community.
"My husband was stationed at Fort Sill," she said, "so it's like coming back home for him."
McCormack said when Robert returned home from his tours of Vietnam, he and other vets were often "not treated well" by the citizens who received them, something that fuels her fast-stitching hands.
"We just want to make sure ... that our vets understand there are people who are very appreciative of their service," McCormack said. "Whether they fought in a combat service or not, they still signed their name on that line and said they would if they had to.
"Because of them, we get to do pretty much as we please. It gives us the right to live the life we do."
There are more than 200 veterans in Oklahoma waiting on quilts, said McCormack, who receives "constant requests" for quilts. Because Quilts of Valor is a nonprofit, McCormack said she is often in need of monetary and material donations to make more quilts.
"Fabric is our greatest cost," she said.
To make a donation, contact McCormack at email@example.com.
Quilts of Valor Foundation was founded in 2003, while founder Catherine Roberts’ son was deployed to Iraq. The first QOV was awarded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg in Iraq. For more information, go to qovf.org.