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Two veterans honored with Quilts of Valor

WEST POINT — A U.S. Navy veteran from the Korean War era and an active duty staff sergeant with the U.S. Army were honored for their service Saturday morning at sewingmachine.com.

Wallace Bell and Staff Sgt. Shena R. Veale each received a Quilt of Valor made by volunteers with the Georgia-Alabama State Line Chapter of the Quilts of Valor.

Sgt. Veale is currently stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia. She’s a native of Phenix City, and a 2000 graduate of Smiths Station High School. She’s been in the U.S. Army since high school graduation and served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012 and has also served in Germany, Jordan and Kuwait. Her mother, Barbara Simonton, lives in West Point.

Wallace Bell was in the U.S. Navy from 1948-1953. He joined the service at 17 and one of his first assignments was in Shanghai, China.

“It was a scary time,” he said. “We had to leave because of the communist revolution.”

While there, Bell had the frightful experience of getting lost in one of the world’s largest cities. “I knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be,” he said. “I was barely out of boot camp at the time. It was hard to get directions to where I needed to be because of the language barrier.”

He luckily ran into some Chinese sailors who could communicate in English, and they managed to get him back to the base. Bell spent most of his time in the service in The Philippines and loved it there.

“The people there were so nice to us,” he said.

Bell is now a retired minister and postmaster and lives with son David in Valley. He also found time to teach college classes on social science at Troy University’s Phenix City campus and the Opelika campus of Southern Union State Community College. Bell was with the U.S. Postal Service for 20 years. He was a postmaster in Seale when he retired.

Hattie Mapp, a native of The Netherlands, was the lead quilter on the two quilts that were presented. Veale was first to receive her quilt. She was escorted into the room where the presentation was made to the recorded sounds of “The Caissons Go Rolling Along,” a familiar U.S. Army song. Bell walked into the room as the Navy song, “Anchors Aweigh” was being played.

“This is our way of telling our veterans that we love them and thank them for their service,” said Georgia-Alabama chapter spokesperson Sheila Simpson.

The quilting group meets at sewingmachine.com from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Quilts of Valor is a national foundation of people who make quilts to cover service members and veterans who have been touched by war in order to provide comfort, honor and gratitude for their sacrifices and service.

The organization was founded by Catherine Roberts in 2003 when her son was deployed to Iraq. The first quilt was awarded at Walter Reed Hospital as a way of letting a wounded soldier know that someone cared. It took Roberts’ small group three years to award the first 100 quilts. That took place in May 2014. Lots of quilting groups have joined the effort since then. To date, a total of 214,893 quilts have been awarded.

“Quilters say that every quilt tells a story,” Simpson told Veale and Bell. “The story of your quilt began with a Georgia quilter who shares your love of country. As of today, the story of this quilt becomes your story. We hope you look at your quilt as a tangible reminder that there are thousands of women and men across America who are forever in your debt, and that it our pleasure to honor you with a Quilt of Valor.”