Many war veterans return home broken in body or spirit. It can take years to put the pieces back together again. The Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOVF) recognizes the great sacrifices made by those who have fought for our freedom. Their mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.
World War II veteran Richard ‘Dick’ Foster of Kingsport received such a quilt last spring.
“I was surprised! I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” he said. The quilt was presented to the 97-year-old in a small, quiet family celebration. For several weeks, it was on display in the library at Asbury Place where Dick resides.
His daughter, Vicki Kalonick of Kingsport, explained that her cousin’s wife, Kathie Whitson, nominated Dick to receive the quilt. A QOVF member in Alabama, Kathie crafted the quilt herself. Her signature can be seen on the special certificate that is sewn into the quilt.
“It really touched me that she cared that much to do something like that. It was a labor of love and quite a gift,” Vicki said. Receiving a quilt from the Quilts of Valor Foundation is considered quite an honor. At least 226,042 quilts have been awarded since the foundation started in 2003.
Dick joined the Army in 1942. He was badly injured in Germany in 1944 while serving in the Army Infantry’s 87th Division, 347th Battalion, Company D.
“I was riding in a Jeep and we were going down a little road in the forest. We had gone out to try to find the ammunitions dump,” he recalled. Dick said, as they drove through the heavily wooded forest, they were stopped by some trees in the road. “The driver said, ‘oh, we can get around that.’ And before I could say anything, he started around it,” Dick said. Tragically, there was a tank mine in the trees, and the Jeep exploded and wrapped around a tree. The driver was killed instantly but Dick miraculously survived, although with several injuries including a crushed pelvic bone.
What followed were weeks of being moved from the medical station on the front lines to a hospital in France, then to another hospital in England. In a full body cast, Dick was put on a medical ship out of England to be brought to the United States. However, another danger presented itself.
“I could tell by the movement of the ship that there was something wrong,” Dick said. The ship had turned around and gone back to England. “I found out that they had seen an enemy submarine.”
After that close call and once some time had passed, the ship once again set out. On the way home, Dick received some good news. “I was halfway across the ocean when Germany surrendered,” he said.
After 10 days (at sea), he was brought safely home. Unfortunately, he would face several surgeries brought on by the injury.
“If he had had that kind of injury here,” Vicki explained, “he would have been in therapy and he wouldn’t have had to deal with the injuries he’s had all of his life. So, he has some scars to show which is why he has a Purple Heart.”
Dick received several medals his exemplary service in the military: a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Award, and a European Campaign and American Campaign medallion.
Dick said from the time he returned from World War II, he never talked about what had happened to him in Germany. That changed, however, when he was flown to Washington D.C. by HonorAir Knoxville in 2009. The organization takes World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans from East Tennessee to visit the memorials built to honor their sacrifice, at no charge to the veteran.
“When I got around all those GIs on that trip, I don’t know what happened but I opened up,” Dick said. “I’m glad I did; I think it’s one thing that helped me along.” After nearly 67 years of silence, he was finally able to share his experiences. As for how the war changed him, Dick said, “I think it made me a better man,” he said. “I realized that I was fighting for a cause and I feel like I had a place to fill and a job to do,” he added.
Having survived the odds, he attributes his long life to his creator.
“It’s amazing to me that I’m in pretty good health. I give God the credit, and just follow the Lord,” he said.