- When John Siewert hears the phrase "Thank you for your service," he always responds with a phrase of his own.
"The pleasure really was mine," the U.S. Navy veteran said with a smile.
Siewert served during World War II, supporting the D-Day invasion in 1944. Wednesday morning folks thanked Siewert, not with their words but instead with a hug.
"We work for it, yes," the ever-humble Siewert said of his recognition. "But I don't think anybody goes into it with the thought of doing something to deserve something."
With family and friends watching, seven veterans received handcrafted "Quilts of Valor" at the American Heroes Cafe in Wisconsin Rapids.
The mother of an Iraq War veteran started the national quilt program in 2003. Since then, more than 130,000 quilts have been presented to vets around the country.
"It's to wrap them up and comfort them when they need it," quilter Carol Carr said.
Carr helped make the quilts with the Rapids-based "Material Girls Quilt Club." Each quilt took between two and three months to finish.
"They're being made by the people of Wisconsin Rapids who have ties here or had ties here for years," Carr said. "[The quilts are] being awarded to the vets that are in Wisconsin Rapids. That community involvement is one of the things that we think is pretty special."
The quilts aren't awarded lightly. Each one is worth upwards of $300 in materials alone, and vets must be nominated. That's a job American Heroes Cafe founder Bill Haack was proud to take up.
"A lot of them don't want to talk about what they did," Haack said. "That's prevalent throughout the veteran community, but today was an exception to the rule. We got seven of them together."
For those attending, Wednesday's ceremony brought a sea of emotions.
"A lot of pride, dedication, courage," Siewert's daughter, Mary Katherine, said while fighting back tears.
Dozens of people thanked vets for their service after Wednesday's ceremony.
"For them to know that there are people out there that want to hear their story and that love them and think about them," Carr said. "It's what we can do."
For a group of quilters happy to serve, on this day at least, the pleasure was all theirs.
Siewert says he's heading to Normandy in the coming days to attend a Memorial Day service on the site of the D-Day landing. Siewert says his quilt will be waiting for him on his bed when he gets home.
For more information about the Quilts of Valor program, visit the link below.
Quilts of Valor