VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (KSNW) — Vietnam Veterans gathered Friday, Oct. 22 in Valley Center to be honored with Quilts of Valor during The Moving Wall.
The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Washington, D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The names of over 58,000 people who lost their lives in the Vietnam War are listed on the wall.
The Moving Wall is back in Valley Center until Monday, Oct. 25. It has been touring the country for over 30 years.
According to the Quilts of Valor website, “A Quilt of Valor® (QOV) is a quality, handmade quilt that is machine or hand quilted. It is awarded to a Service Member or Veteran who has been touched by war. The Quilt says unequivocally, “Thank you for your service and sacrifice in serving our nation.”
“To use the term Quilt of Valor, Quilts of Valor or QOV, the quilt must be a specific size, must have a label with required information, it must be awarded (it is not a gift) and it must be recorded.”
Lora Lagree, the coordinator for Quilts of Valor in the Greater Wichita Area, is one of many who puts in the time and effort in making the quilts for veterans.
“From start to finish, you’re probably going to put somewhere close to 80 hours in it,” said Lagree.
Quilts of Valor in the Greater Wichita Area will have given out over 100 quilts to veterans by the end of the year.
“We’ve probably given out 60 between June and now, and then another 20 tonight and then probably another 20 the first week of November,” said Lagree. “So, since July, we’ve given out a lot of quilts.”
When handing out quilts, Lagree says she always makes sure to tell the veterans thank you for their service.
“I had a 95-year-old man from WWII that I did about a month ago, and as I was leaving he said no one has ever said thanks for your service,” said Lagree. “And I did my cousin-in-law about two weeks ago and he said you’re the first person that has said thanks.”
James Braga, who was honorably discharged from the military after serving in the Vietnam War as a radio telephone operator, was one of the veterans who received a Quilt of Valor.
Instead of wrapping up to stay warm in his quilt, Braga has other plans for it.
“I want to put it in a frame so people can see what you people have given me and how much I appreciate it,” said Braga. “I really do. It’s a gift and I certainly appreciate it. I’m very grateful and it’s so, so nice and humbling to know that there’s people that appreciate what we did.”
Braga joined the military at the age of 19. At 20, he left Fort Benning on the U.S.S. Geiger and arrived in Vietnam in September.
Braga fought in the Vietnam war and then returned back to America when he was 21. Two months after he returned, he got married. He said if he had any sense he would not have gotten married at that time.
“For quite a few years I didn’t receive help and so for quite a few years I did not make a good home,” said Braga.
Braga said he thought the VA Hospital was only for those who were physically wounded and that he never knew he was sick.
“One day I just said, “What am I doing? This is not how I’m supposed to be,” and went to the VA and finally started getting some help,” said Braga.
Braga now goes to group therapy weekly and says he sees a psychiatrist maybe once a month.
“Finally I got help, as many of us have gotten help. We’re doing better, but it’s never over. The war is still there at night. During the day, it’s always there. You never stop thinking about your friends and what you went through,” said Braga. “I don’t have the nightmares I used to have. I don’t have the anger issues I did and it’s simply because of the therapy and the medication that I’m on.”
Braga considers the unit he went to Vietnam with as family.
“These guys are your family, they really are,” said Braga. “And you never stop thinking about them, but they are your family, they are your brothers.”
Throughout his hardships, Braga started his own family. He is a father of two and a grandfather to six.
“My wife has been real supportive through all these things,” said Braga. ‘”I’m grateful for that, very blessed. We’ve been married for 55 years now.”
If you would like to make a quilt or donate to Quilts of Valor, click here.
The Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center is located in Wichita and serves veterans in 59 counties in the state of Kansas.
If you are a veteran in crisis or are concerned about one, you can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press one. You can also text 838255 or chat online.