Five veterans receive honor quilts

Ryan Fitzmaurice

A great local tradition was continued Friday at the annual American Legion Veterans Day program as five handmade quilts were presented to veterans in the community, honoring them for their service.

The quilts are crafted by a host of volunteers . The program is patterned after a national program called “quilts of valor,” a program that distributes quilts to veterans across the country. 

The veterans honored this year were Jim Dickerson, Leon Padilla, Salvador Hurtado, Stuart Morthole and Collin Stevens.

Chauna Bischoff spoke to those assembled at the North Big Horn Senior Citizens Center before the quilts were presented.

While not a veteran herself, Bischoff had her son deployed into service during the Iraq War, giving her an important perspective into the sacrifice required by all families who have loved ones entering war.

“I think this is the hardest talk I’ve ever had to give,” Bischoff said, opening her address. “I have very strong feelings about Veterans Day and our country. I had to send a son to war twice and as a mom that was the hardest thing I had to do.”

Bischoff said to her Veterans Day is a sacred tradition, one that honors the sacrifice many have        had to make in the name of the country.

“We know that this day shows patriotism and love and country and (honors) all the people who were willing to serve our country and the common good,” Bischoff said. “For many the cost of doing so has been very great, both physically and mentally. More than a million veterans have been wounded
while serving the nation and many still continue to receive services.” 

Bischoff said that it is important to know and recognize the great value of those sacrifices.

“Because of the service of these people, their stories are woven into the fabric of our nation,” Bischoff said. “And because of those sacrifices we are free to live, work and to raise our families as we please in this country and in peace. Both military men and women who serve protect us, they come from all walks of life. They are important parts of our community.”

Details about each veteran were provided as the quilts were presented to either the veteran or their families.

Jim Dickerson served in the Marines from 1965 to 1971 during the Vietnam War, where he aided in advanced infantry training. He first served six months of active duty while at Camp Pendleton in California. 

According to information presented by Linda Spragg and Julie Durham, after his service in California, Dickerson served as a swimming instructor and ended his career with the ranking of a sergeant.

Leon Padilla served in the Marines from 1975 to 1976, also stationed in Camp Pendleton. Padilla was an elite sharpshooter who trained Marine riflemen as they prepared for combat. According to his wife, Lydia, his service as a trainer was so valuable that he never was required to leave the states.

Padilla ended his service as a corporal and received a National Defense Medal for his expertise. 

Salvador Hurtado served nine years in the Navy from 1962 to 1971. He enlisted seeking to fly fighter jets but was turned away from
that service do to a failed
eye test. 

He instead was enlisted to man ESM, electronic support measures, equipment on an aircraft carrier, where he helped gather intelligence through electromatic surveillance and collection devices. 

During his service the air conditioning on the carrier malfunctioned, which caused him to develop pneumonia. His fight with the condition nearly ended his life and eventually
led to the end of his career in the Navy.

He ended with a rank of B4.

In a quote provided, Hurtado said, “It was an adventure. I wanted to fly and ended up on a ship.”

Stuart Morthole entered the Air Force in 1969 as a second lieutenant after graduating from the University of Wyoming with a degree in civil engineering. His first station was at the original Civil War arsenal at Jefferson Barrack in St. Louis, Missouri, where he aided in operation and maintenance.  

In 1971 he trained to be a navigator and began his career flying B52s at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota. He flew 45 combat missions over Thailand. 

In 1976 Morthole became an instructor in combat crew training, teaching radar navigation at Castle Air Force Base in California. 

In 1980 Morthole was selected for a three-year assignment with NATO and Canadian forces, requiring his family to move to Canada with him. 

In 1985 he completed Air Command Staff College in Montgomery, Alabama, graduating with a master’s degree.

He retired from the Air Force with 20 years of service and more than 4,000 hours of flight time.

Collin Stevens served for two years in the Army, drafted in 1966 out of Butte, Montana. He was sent to Fort Ord in California to do basic training in the Mojave Desert, which he described as being boiling hot in the day and freezing in the night. 

Stevens became a sharpshooter and did demonstrations for riflemen and received awards for his ability. He served until 1972.