Chilton veterans presented Quilts of Valor for military service

Published 2:35 pm Thursday, May 9, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The Cotton Patch Quilters honored five veterans from Chilton County on May 9 and presented them with a Quilt of Valor for their selfless military service to the United States of America. The United States Army’s Corporal Richard Abernathy and Captain Jeremiah Hague, United States Marine Corps’ Corporal Judson Akin and Wayne Arnold and United States Air Force’s Staff Sergeant Denise Lovelady were recognized for their service with colorful red, white and blue quilts designed to surround them with warmth and thankfulness from the community for their sacrifice.

Loveday served in the United States Air Force from 1976-1996 and was stationed at several bases in Texas, Alaska and Florida during her service. During her deployments, her service included support in Vietnam for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Office’s recovery efforts, supporting flight operations in undisclosed locations for Operation Eagle Claw, Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, support during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force in former Yugoslavia and conducted operations in Somalia, Egypt and Italy.

“It is an honor that people do care … Most people do not,” Lovelady said. “It means more coming from someone you do not know.”

Lovelady’s service in the U.S. Air Force yielded many recognitions and achievements for her selfless service. The Lawley resident’s decorations from her service time include Kuwait Liberation Medals from the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, NATO Medal from the former Yugoslavia, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal with Star, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two stars, National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal with six oak leaf clusters, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor Device, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

Maplesville’s Arnold served from 1967-1969 in the United States Marine Corps as a field radio operator with the H and S Companies and the 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines during the Vietnam War. He completed the Field Operator Course at Camp Pendleton in California, and he was quickly deployed with Company H to Khe Sanh in South Vietnam.

Arnold’s service centered around the Battle of Khe Sanh that began on Jan. 21, 1968 and ended on July 9 the same year. In the battle, the United States lost 274 men and 2,541 were wounded, one of which was Arnold. He received the Purple Heart for his combat wounds during the battle.

“It is an honor … When we got back from Vietnam, not me but others, suffered rejection,” Arnold said. “It is touching that we are remembered today because there are only about 35% (of Vietnam War veterans) still alive. I am honored with this beautiful quilt.”

Along with the Purple Heart, Arnold’s decorations from his service time include the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and both the Rifle and Marksmanship Badges.

Abernathy’s service to the United States in the Vietnam War from 1968-1970 was with the 4th Infantry Division in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Corps Tactical Zone, East-Central region of South Vietnam. The Clanton native’s division supported the Johnson Administration’s “Accelerated Pacification Campaign,” designed to free nearly 1,100 hamlets, or small settlements, from Viet Cong control.

Abernathy also showed support in the Cambodian Campaign, a series of military operations designed to defeat around 40,000 enemy troops in eastern Cambodia.

“It means a lot to me, and I did not know that many people cared,” Abernathy said. “When I came out of the service it was kind of an embarrassing thing, but a lot has changed and people are starting to realize. I appreciate everything they did here for me today, and it means a lot.”

Abernathy’s military decorations from his service time include the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation.

Hague was another veteran honored who saw his service time during the height of the Vietnam War, serving from 1967-1975 in the United States Army. A Thorsby native, he became an Air Force instructor pilot serving at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, Norton Air Force Base in California and Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Vietnam, and was a distinguished graduate of the Squadron Officer School.

Hague served twice more in the U.S. Army, the first from 1987-1993 during heightened tensions in the Middle East, and the second from 1997-2007 during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He served as a chemical operations specialist and helicopter pilot during his two later deployments.

“It is nice to be recognized for the service, it really is,” Hague said. “It is such a long time ago in my life, so it is nice to get recognized, especially for the Vietnam (War) service.”

Hague’s decorations during his three stints of service include the U.S. Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal with 11 clusters, Presidential Unit Citation, Distinguished Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and the Small Arms Expert Marksman device.

Akin, a native of Clanton, served in the United States Marine Corps from 2005-2013 as an ammunition specialist and rising to the rank of corporal. Akin completed basic and specialty training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and upon completion, was assigned to units at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from 2005-2009 and then units at Camp Pendleton in California from 2009-2013.

During his service, Akin served one tour of duty in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan in support of the Global War on Terrorism. He was also selected to serve for one year as the personal driver for the Commanding General on the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

“It was an honor, and there are a lot of people that deserve it more than me, but it was very much an honor and a blessing to get this (quilt),” Akin said. “I did not have any direction I was going in when I got done with high school, but (the military) was a good choice because it straightened me out and led me down the path to where I am now.”

Akin’s decorations from his military career include three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.