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Friday, 24 November 2017 17:56

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Justin Roa, left, Venita Combs and Richard Lockas take a glance at their pictures as the first inductees to Liberal Good Samaritan’s Wall of Honor Wednesday afternoon. Combs came up with the slogan for the wall, “Faces of Courage,” as part of a contest that took place at the facility recently. L&T photo/Robert Pierce

Roa, Combs, Lockas first on Wall of Honor

By ROBERT PIERCE

• Leader & Times

Like many places in America, nursing homes have their share of veterans, and this Wednesday, Liberal’s Good Samaritan Center took a few moments prior to the Thanksgiving holiday to give three of its residents, all veterans, a special gratitude for their service.

Justin Roa, Venita Combs and Richard Lockas are the first Good Sam residents to be recognized as part of a new Wall of Honor.

The unveiling of the new wall took place following some other festivities both in Good Sam’s chapel and its front lobby. Administrator Richard Parra began the ceremony by welcoming not only the veterans, but friends, family and facility staff to the day’s activities.

“We appreciate everything you’ve done for our country,” he said to the trio of honorees. “We’re here to honor you on this very special day in front of all these individuals, your family and friends and your community leaders.”

Parra then talked about the work members of the Liberal community do for those who serve.

“I appreciate everything that this community has done for us and for the veterans,” he said. “I think the veterans themselves deserve a big hand of applause just for being here.”

Good Sam Chaplain Pat Mann then prayed for the group, and she began by recognizing the significance of Wednesday’s celebration.

“How thankful we are for the privilege to stand in Your presence today and to honor these great men and women who’ve served in the military of the United States of America,” she said. 

As Mann continued praying, her message continued in that same realm.

“Today, we dedicate a special place in their honor for the many who will come after them,” she said of the veterans. “This place, may it be hallowed ground so that every time we cast that life, we will see and  remember and be grateful for the service and sacrifice of these who stepped up to be counted in the service of their country. We pray that Your spirit will linger in this place and in these halls and we never forget what these have done for the rest of us who have reaped the benefits of their sacrifice. God bless America, and bless the hallowed walls of the place that we have dedicated.”

Mann also prayed for today’s veterans fighting overseas for America’s freedom.

“Bless those who are even today on foreign soil,” she said. “Just put Your wall of protection around them as they serve in parrel of their lives. Bless those veterans who have returned with mental anguish and broken bodies who still have a battle to fight of another sort. We look at the pictures of these residents who have served with special pride that we’ve chosen to care for their needs as they have so valiantly cared for our needs and secured our freedoms.”

After American Legion members presented the colors, Southwest Kansas Quilts of Valor’s Peggy Luck then presented Roa, Combs and Lockas each with a quilt as a “thank you” for their service. Before she handed out the quilts, though, she talked a little about the QOV program.

“The Quilts of Valor Foundation was started in 2003 by a woman named Katherine Roberts, and her son was deployed to Iraq,” she said. “She had concerns and had all kinds of visions of him being sad, lonely from being away from his country, in risk, in danger. Her thoughts were validated because he did receive the Purple Heart when he came home, but when she was thinking of him, she thought of him needing comfort. The way that he got that comfort was being wrapped in a quilt. That quilt was the first of our Quilts of Valor.”

That first quilt was presented at Walter Reed Hospital, and since that time, more than 171,000 quilts have been awarded in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan. Luck said since 2013, the Southwest Kansas QOV group has given out 200 quilts alone.

“Those went to our local veterans here in our community,” she said. “With this support of the community, that’s how the quilts get made. All of the quilts are handmade. They are made by volunteers. They are made with beautiful fabrics and threads that were donated through our community especially for this project. The volunteers make these quilts even though they don’t know for sure which veterans going to receive them always.”

Luck said everyone owes veterans a great deal of sacrifice for protecting freedom.

“There are three things in this quilt that we will present you today,” she said. “The first one is we want to honor you. We want to honor you for protecting us from all the effects of war.”

Luck said because of people like the three veterans honored Wednesday, America continues to be a free country.

“Freedom is not free,” she said. “In Liberal, Kansas, and the United States of America, we realize that there is a cost to freedom, and that cost is the dedication of men and women like you.”

Luck said quilts like those given out Wednesday are a reminder of the appreciation civilians show for those in uniform.

“This quilt is meant to give you comfort,” she said. “If at anytime you are thinking the United States has forgotten about your service and your sacrifice, it’s my hope that you will wrap this quilt around you tightly and feel a hug from all of the United States citizens who appreciate your service and want to thank you.”

In addition to the quilts, each veteran was presented a certificate marking their quilt as their own. Luck read from the certificate, saying the blankets were meant as an expression of gratitude from a grateful nation.

“Though we may never know the extent of your sacrifice and service to protect and defend the United States of America, as an expression of gratitude, we award you this Quilt of Valor on the 22nd day of November 2017 in Liberal, Kansas,” she said.

After Combs, Roa and Lockas were presented their quilts, Luck presented Parra, a Vietnam veteran, with a quilt, which briefly made the Good Sam administrator a little speechless. As veterans from the Vietnam War were typically not welcomed home in a good way, Luck said Parra’s quilt would hopefully make him feel more welcomed than he likely did when he came home from the war.

“He served during the Vietnam conflict,” she said. “As we know, some of our Vietnam veterans were not treated very well. It is my hopes with this quilt, you will feel a proper welcome home.”

As the festivities switched to the lobby for the unveiling, Parra made no mistake in saying Wednesday’s ceremony was an absolute expression of gratitude for veterans.

“We want to make sure that we celebrate not only today but from here on out what you have done for our country, and we appreciate that from the bottom of our hearts,” he said. “We thank you for your service.”

Parra said Wednesday’s event is only the beginning for the Wall of Honor.

“The hope is that as time goes on, we would have more veterans to add to our wall,” he said.

Before Wednesday’s ceremony, Good Sam staff and residents had a contest to come up with a slogan for the wall, something Parra said would honor veterans and their families throughout the U.S.

“We put this out for all the staff, anyone that wanted to participate, and we came up with one slogan that I think just says it all,” he said. “It says, ‘Faces of Courage.’”

Parra then revealed it was none other than Combs herself who came up with the slogan. He then presented a tearful Combs with a certificate honoring her for coming up with the name.

Combs then spoke briefly, saying it is not just the three residents and Parra who should be recognized, but all veterans. 

“There are so many that have honored our country with their lives, with giving of theirselves, their family members, and we owe them all a special ‘thank you,’ a special ‘God bless you,’” she said.

Combs, who also has grandchildren in the military, gave a last expression of gratitude to all who have served.

“I know there are so many other people who have given so much more to their families, and we thank you for putting up with us,” she said. “We thank you so much for being there.”

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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