When local veteran Gordon Keener was presented with a beautiful quilt at a legion general meeting, “it made his eyes water,” said Vivian MacNeil, first vice president of the Royal Canadian Legion Br. 139.
“It caught me off guard,” said Keener.
The quilt is the first of several Quilts of Valor to be awarded to a local veteran.
Donated by the Horse Lake Quilters near 100 Mile House, they are part of a program across Canada where quilters make and give quilts to injured Canadian Armed Forces members, past and present.
After the Horse Lake Quilters exhausted their list of local veterans, they still had quilts left over.
“We started out to give quilts to people returning from Afghanistan — that was the initial push, so we sent a lot of quilts to various places, Vancouver and then they were distributed across Canada from there,” said Nancy Meville, a member of the Horse Lake Quilters.
“And then we worked our way through,” she says. “World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War — he must have been a Canadian that served because other Canadians didn’t — and then peacekeepers.”
Meville then reached out to the Williams Lake legion to give them their remaining quilts.
MacNeil is part of a committee charged with handing the quilts out to Williams Lake and area veterans.
Keener as the first choice seemed obvious, she said.
“He’s been ours here for a number of years and he has had some issues with PTSD and he has been very deserving of having a quilt,” said MacNeil.
“It was just to let him know how much we care.”
Keener is the president of the local legion, and served in the Third Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry out of Victoria starting in 1981. Keener served as a peacekeeper in Cyprus in 1988.
“It’s an honour — what the quilts are for and actually receiving one is an honour. I’ve seen them presented to some of my ex-military friends across Canada,” he said.
“It’s them saying we recognize you. You have some issues you are dealing with and this is to comfort you for those issues.”
Both MacNeil and Keener extended a special thank you to the Horse Lake Quilters who made the quilts.
MacNeil said she had Keener’s wife Terry come by to pick out a quilt she knew Keener would appreciate.
“It’s a treasure,” said Keener.
“It’s coming out on special occasions, just like my regimental flag.”