Park Place Men of Valor stories told; Kirk all about quilts

“It’s about the veterans,” Dixie Lee Hands Touching Hearts quilting group president Paula Kirk said about presenting Quilts of Valor to seven veterans at Park Place of West Knoxville, 10914 Kingston Pike in Farragut, Wednesday, April 24.

Charles “Chuck” Firestone, Larry Goulding, Robert Hungate, Dennis Larrabee, Phil Malkovich, Alvin “Al” Sherrill and Wilfred “Will” Slade each came in front of fellow Park Place residents and family to receive their quilts.

As a member of Quilts of Valor Foundation, Dixie Lee Hands Touching Hearts group near Farragut makes quilts to drape over the shoulders of local veterans, but Kirk said she wants the focus entirely on the veterans.

“We all know that freedom is not free,” she said. “While we will never know the true extent of your service and sacrifice, we do know that we owe a debt that we can never repay to you and all those who have served.

“The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national organization founded by Blue Star Mother Catherine Roberts after her son was deployed to Iraq,” she added.

“She had an idea to make and give a quilt to a wounded soldier, hoping to offer healing and comfort.

The mission of the foundation “has grown and changed from that early day,” Kirk said. “At the heart of the foundation’s mission is the thought of giving something back to veterans who have served our country with honor and to thank them for their service.

“As of Feb. 29, 377,384 Quilts of Valor have been presented.”

Park Place veterans’ stories are told

Firestone served from 1964 to 1967, when he was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After being commissioned, he served as a field artillery officer with the 173rd Airborne Brigade as a member of the Long-Range Recon Patrol team.

“The 173rd Airborne Division was the first major United States Army ground formation deployed to Vietnam,” Kirk said.

During his service, Firestone received a Bronze Star; 2-Oak Leaf Clusters, for which he was thrice awarded; a Purple Heart; and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star.

Besides serving in Vietnam, he also served as an instructor at Fort Sill Artillery School.

“He credits his military service for allowing him to be very decisive and live for today,” Kirk said of Firestone.

However, “Chuck asks that we all understand PTSD can be a lifelong problem, and we always support our returning veterans with that condition no matter how long it takes to be corrected.”

Goulding served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956, when he was specialist third class.

“While in the Army, Larry served as a clerk historian during the Korean War and served in Germany,” Kirk said.

“The most memorable experience was spending Christmas Eve in a small German village.

“Military life enabled me to see Europe and receive many benefits thanks to Uncle Sam,” Goulding said. “It was a satisfying growth experience.”

Hungate, who comes from a military family, served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1974, when he was an E-4 specialist. Like is father, he also served as a 91 Bravo medic.

In service, he was stationed in West Germany, where he had the “unexpected privilege of delivering a baby for a U.S. military family not once, but twice,” Kirk said.

Hungate recalled how the Army restricted the news he received while in West Germany. “In 1969, there was plenty of news about the moon landing, but not a word about Woodstock,” he shared.

Larrabee served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1966 to 1988, when he was senior chief (E-8), serving as a machinery tech during the Vietnam War.

However, his most memorable tours were in Alaska and cocswain training in Lake Erie.

“Military life enabled me to make long-time friends and have a sense of community,” Larrabee said. “I also felt I was part of something important.”

Malkovich served in the U.S. Navy from 1952 to 1960, when he was a PO2 and served as a quarter master during the Korean War.

His most memorable experience was “the beauty of the sunsets on the quiet ocean,” Malkovich shared.

While in the Navy, it offered him a world cruise through the Panama and Suez canals. Also, he said military life enabled him to attend college.

“I would certainly do it all over again,” he added.

Sherrill served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956, where he was private first class.

He was drafted while married and living in Old Hickory (Davidson County).

“After going through basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he said goodbye to his wife and was shipped out to Darmstadt, Germany, to serve as a clerk typist,” Kirk said. “During his 18 months in Germany, he was afforded only one weekend pass.

“However, he did get to make many day trips to nearby cities and towns,” she added.

After being honorably discharged, Sherrill used the GI Bill to finish his college education, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting from Carson-Newman University. He then served as an IRS agent for 31 years.

Slade served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1971, where he was a technical sergeant. While in the Air Force, he served as an aircraft and engine mechanic.

He served a year in Vietnam, Korea and the Philippines. In the United States, he was stationed at various bases, including Edwards AFB, Los Angeles AFB and Wright-Patterson AFB.

“His most memorable experiences come from his time while stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB for four years and in the Philippines for three-and-a-half years,” Kirk said.

“He appreciates how his service in the Air Force kept his life interesting and instilled the value of respect,” she added about Slade.