Local veteran receives handmade Quilt of Valor
BY BRYCE KELLY
Mt. Pleasant News
For most of his life, local veteran Gerald Beavers has been striving to give back to others. But recently, through the generosity of one local veterans organization, Beavers received a warm gift of gratitude for his years of volunteerism and service to the nation.
This month, Gerald Beavers became yet another recipient of a Quilt of Valor, and he says he couldn’t be more honored and surprised at his recent handmade blanket.
“I really do appreciate it. I was really surprised to get it, but very thankful I did,” Beavers says, sitting in the front room of his home in Mt. Pleasant with his new, hand stitched quilt wrapped around his lap. “I think it’s wonderful and I actually use it quite a bit.”
The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national non-profit foundation, which strives to provide handmade quilts to veterans, no matter the veteran’s years of active duty or branch of service. A local branch of the Quilts of Valor Foundation has been making quilts for Henry County veterans like Beavers since January of 2016, and is made up of roughly 11 local quilters.
For Beavers, the recent gift of a quilt from the foundation is greatly appreciated, but he says his service to the United States was never about getting gifts or recognition for his efforts, rather it was always centered around giving back.
A southeast Iowa native and World War II veteran, Beavers enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942, just a few months after graduating from high school. His military career would eventually span several years, and unknown to him when he enlisted, take him to places he would have never dreamed of seeing first-hand.
“I departed by ship to Oran first and stayed there for about two weeks in tents,” Beavers recalls of his various military travels and duties. “Then, we moved through the Mediterranean to India, then to Calcutta, then eight of us volunteered to go over to the western part of China to set up an aircraft control center for the big B-29 bombers.”
Being fresh out of high school and having never seen the world outside of the United States before, Beavers said he felt enlisting in the Army Air Force would be a good fit for him, and as his brothers were also servicemen, he felt a stint in the military would suit him.
“While I didn’t know it at the time that I joined the service, I actually had what you might call a pretty safe service career compared to what a lot of guys had, and I am very thankful for that,” Beavers says. “You might say that I really grew up in the service as service men and women often do.”
Beavers’ time in China also gave him the opportunity to see what he says was a blatant reminder of “just how wonderful and blessed” the American people are.
“In China, we were there to work, but we did see a good bit of China while we were there,” Beavers says. “At that time, many of the Chinese people were pretty poor and it really reminded me of how lucky I was to be an American with the opportunities that I had.”
After leaving the U.S. Armed Forces in 1945, Beavers came back to the United States with an education, career and family on his mind. He went on to attend Iowa Wesleyan College for a year, then graduated Chillicothe Business College with a degree in accounting. In 1948, Beavers began his first full-time civilian career in the accounting field and continued to work in various related capacities until his retirement. He married his wife, Delores “Arlene”, in 1952.
And despite labeling himself “officially retired”, Beavers insists he will never fully retire from an active lifestyle. Since his official retirement, Beavers has been an active volunteer in the area, working for local organizations like The Fellowship Cup, in Mt. Pleasant. Beavers was also part of a group of locals who helped organize Honor Flights for veterans, which he did for roughly four years.
“We sent veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the various military memorials, which was something that I myself have done as well in 2009,” he says. “It was really neat to do that for veterans. I am glad I could help with it, and it’s something that I will never regret being a part of.”
In 1997, Beavers’ extensive volunteer work got the attention of Gov. Terry Branstad, who awarded Beavers for his volunteerism with the Governor’s Volunteer Award.
“I don’t do it (volunteer work) for awards and that kind of thing, but it is nice to be recognized for what you do,” he says. “I am just happy to help where I can.”
Despite saying goodbye to his military career many years ago and shifting his focus to being a husband, father and grandfather, Beavers insists that he will always be proud to be a veteran, and hopes that organizations like Quilts of Valor will continue to recognize veterans for their sacrifice and thank them for their service.
“I think this area and Mt. Pleasant in particular is very good about respecting and honoring veterans,” he said. “And I hope that continues. I think it’s important to do that and also to pay respects to our servicemen and women who didn’t make it back home.”
To learn more about Quilts of Valor, visit www.qovf.org, or for more information about veteran’s affairs in the local area, contact the Henry County Veteran’s Affairs Office at 319-385-0792.