Bonaire students honor veterans with ‘Quilts of Valor’

awoolen@macon.comMay 15, 2013 

BONAIRE -- Charles Helms had one of the most dangerous jobs in Vietnam.

The two-time Purple Heart recipient was a rear gunner in a scout helicopter and was shot down twice.

His daughters, Jennifer Yawn and Shelly Faulk, saw the wounds their father bore because of his combat experience.

Through the Quilts of Valor program, Yawn, a third-grade teacher at Hilltop Elementary School, honored her father with a quilt of his own Thursday.

“I’ve seen Daddy limp because he carries those wounds,” she said through tears.

Being able to give him a quilt made by the children in her class “means everything.”

Helms, who retired as Sgt. 1st Class from the U.S. Army, lives in Warner Robins. The 65-year-old retired due to his gunshot injuries after serving 17 years.

Faulk said her father was her hero.

“I value freedom and honor and America because of him,” Faulk said.

The program at Hilltop started last year with one recipient. The students made 30 quilts due to the efforts of Yawn; Beth McLaughlin, director of community and school affairs at the Houston County Board of Education office; and Susan Gordon, the regional coordinator with the Quilts of Valor Foundation.

Twenty-five honorees were given handmade quilts, which were placed around the recipients’ shoulders.

Russell Bentley, who retired from the Marine Corps, said it was the first time he had been honored for his service.

“I’m glad they recognized those since it’s such a stressful time,” he said.

Bentley currently works as a mechanic in the board of education’s maintenance department.

Two members of the Georgia chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution were also in attendance with regalia and presented a check for $300 to the Quilts of Valor program.

Gordon said the money would be used to make more quilts. “This is a tangible way we can show” our love of country, she said.

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