Veterans awarded Quilts of Valor for years of military service

By Carey Reeder

The Cotton Patch Quilt Guild and First Baptist Stitch and Pray Sewing Bee presented five decorated veterans with a Quilt of Valor on May 11. The two organizations presented handmade quilts to three veterans who were in attendance. The organizations will visit the other two veterans who could not make the ceremony and present them with their quilts. Sgt. 1st Class Ocie Williams served in the United States Army from 1962-1984. Williams joined as a nuclear specialist in the Strategic Army Corps, a component to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He later became a training specialist with the U.S. Army’s Infantry School and helped soldiers fight and survive during one of America’s longest ground wars in South Vietnam.

Williams carried on a long-standing family legacy of military service after his uncles served in World War II and his sons are currently serving in the military. The continuous family legacy was recognized with the U.S. Army’s Commendation Medal. “It was a great honor, and I accepted this quilt for my two uncles who served in World War II, my two brothers that served in the Korean War and my two sons that served in Iraq,” Williams said. “It is great for a small-town country boy to be awarded this from my peers. It is quite touching, and I appreciate it.” Williams continued to serve after his military service as the president of the Concerned Citizens of Chilton County, Commander of American Legion Post 6 and a trustee for the Union Baptist Church in Clanton.

Williams received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Community Action and the Seeds of Kindness Award from the Disabled American Veterans Commanders Club as well. Staff Sgt. Elliot Todd Ingram served from 1984-2008 and began in the United States Marine Corps Infantry from 1984-1988. He transferred to the U.S. Army in 1988 and became an airborne infantryman. While in the U.S. Army, Ingram served in Operation Desert Storm, a near six-month preparation on the Iraq-Saudi border awaiting Desert Storm. Ingram earned his Combat Infantry Badge there. He returned and joined the Army National Guard and served there for 16 years.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Ingram guarded dangerous chemical weapons stockpiles. He saw combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and sustained injuries when his convoy vehicle hit a roadside bomb followed by an enemy small-arms ambush. Due to his injuries, Ingram was medically evacuated to Baghdad, then Germany and then to the United States for surgery. He later rejoined his unit in Iraq to finish out his combat tour. “It is very impressive that these ladies take the time to make these quilts, because it takes a lot of time to put those together,” Ingram said. “It means a lot to me because there were a lot of times where we could not

get warm, and that is what I think about when I got the quilt. The times where I could not stay warm.” Ingram retired from the Army National Guard in 2008. His decorations include the Purple Heart, United States Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Combat Infantry Badge with star and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. Master Sgt. William Neussl served in the United States Air Force during the most dangerous period of the Vietnam War and the increasingly tense Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Neussl was an electrician for three years and served as a personnel technician for 16 years. He supported a variety of fighter, bomber and airlift operations at seven state-side bases including Craig and Gunter Air Force Bases in Alabama. Neussl’s overseas assignments included trips to South Vietnam and West Germany. “I appreciate them for doing that,” Neussl said. “I thank them a lot.” Neussl served from 1967-1987 and his decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with three bronze oak leaf cluster, Air Force Good Conduct Medal with silver oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Sgt. 1st Class Morris Price could not be at the ceremony, but his quilt was showcased for those in attendance to see. Price served from 1950-1953 and fought in the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge on the Korean Peninsula. He was injured and then captured by North Korean forces. While many of the prisoners were killed because they were lagging behind, Price and another soldier helped each other survive. Both soldiers were returned to the United States where Price was honorably discharged. Price’s decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, Korean Service Medal with six bronze stars, National Defense Service Medal, United States Service Medal,

Republic of Korea-Korean War Service Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation and the Army Good Conduct Medal. Miles Aldridge, who was also absent from the ceremony, served in the Merchant Marines from 1943-1954 and was only 17 years old when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. He joined the United States Navy Air Force shortly after, but then enlisted with Merchant Marines. Aldridge served for 11 years where he spent nearly 90% of his time at sea including action with the fifth wave of troops landing on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 during World War II. He continued to work with the Merchant Marines after the war to help bring soldiers back to America, and take German soldiers back to Germany. Aldridge also assisted in the Korean War for three years moving supplies in and out of South Korea.

Over 250,000 men served in the Merchant Marines during World War II and 9,521 died. That is the highest proportion of those killed in any military branch, according to the National World War II Museum. In 1988, Merchant Marines were given military veteran status and rightly Aldridge’s spot among the bravest to serve in the United States military.

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