Students Honor Vet with Patriotic Quilt

Three boys stood with an Army veteran pledging allegiance to a faded flag, the gulf of years between them vanishing into their solemn words: “one nation, under God, indivisible …”

The fourth-graders from Kenowa Hills’ Alpine Elementary School looked proud to take the pledge with Richard DeRoover, a 57-year-old resident of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. It seemed a fitting moment, coming just after the students presented DeRoover with a patriotic quilt they had made for him.

“That’s beautiful,” DeRoover said, as Brandon Borowka, Connor Moe and Jacob Stokes displayed the quilt covered with a dozen images they and their classmates had drawn. Their teacher, Karla Marks, and social worker Vicki Jansma looked on as the boys pointed out their own pictures: an Army dog tag, an arrowhead and an outline of the United States with the words, “We hold each other together.”

An eagle, the Liberty Bell and the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima were some of the other images drawn by students in Marks’ resource room. She enlisted Jansma, an accomplished quilter, to help create the piece as a service-learning project for her students with learning disabilities.Connor Moe, center, shows DeRoover the section of the quilt that he designed

The quilt helped students see outside themselves to recognize how they can help others, Marks said.

“They realize even though they are kids and maybe don’t have a lot of money, that there are a lot of needs in the world and they can make a difference,” she said.

‘Wrap You Up with Thank-Yous’

Funded by a grant from the Meijer corporation, the project involved math and reading skills as students researched their topics and cut out squares with a rotary box cutter. Jansma stitched it all together, adding borders and photos of the students and school.

Connor Moe designed a dog tag because his father was in the Army. Jacob Stokes said his outlined map shows that everyone in the Army plays a part “so they have to hold each other together.”

Brandon Borowka showed his arrowhead to DeRoover and said, “I was trying to make it show some of the blood and tears, people who had lost their family.”

DeRoover teared up a bit himself when he saw the flag. He was stationed in the late 1970s in Fort Riley, Kan., home of the First Infantry Division known as the “Big Red One.” He never saw combat but said he sustained whiplash, and he receives therapy three times a week for leg problems.

The quilt squares included the iconic World War II image of U.S. soldiers raising the flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima“We want to say thank you for serving our country,” Jansma said as they presented the quilt.

“I’m going to put it up on the wall,” DeRoover said.

“You can wrap yourself in it when you get cold,” Jansma said, “because we want to wrap you up with all of our thank-yous.”

DeRoover told the students he appreciated how much time they took to make the quilt for him.

“It means a lot,” he said. Then he added, “Hopefully all the wars are over with.”

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Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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