RACINE — As part of a Veterans Day recognition of Sunday, the Forest Run Quilters presented a Quilt of Valor to Sgt. Major Jim Freeman.
“I am so humbled by this,” said Freeman of receiving the quilt. “I love doing this. I love being a soldier. It is something I was good at. If you’re good at it they let you go on to the next step. I’m almost out of steps. I’m almost at the top of that ladder.”
Quilt of Valor began in 2003 as a dream of Catherine Roberts, whose son was deployed in Iraq. In the dream, Roberts saw a young man sitting on the side of a bed hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair with his war demons clustered around, drawing him down, stated Marcia Arnold prior to the quilt presentation on Sunday.
In the next scene of the dream, the man was wrapped in a quilt, with his whole demeanor having changed, going from despair to a feeling of hope and well-being. The message of the dream was that quilts equal healing.
It was from that dream that Roberts started Quilt of Valor. The Quilt of Valor is the civilian equivalent of a Purple Heart. Volunteer quilters throughout the country donate time and materials to create the quilts.
There are several rules and requirements for the quilts. The quilts must be quality made, the quilts are to be awarded and not just passed out. The quilts must be made of high quality cotton in a patriotic design, although it does not have to be red, white and blue. The quilt must be large enough to cover an average size adult. It must be hand or machine quilted.
“Quilts of Valor say to the awardee, ‘Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation in combat,’” stated Arnold.
It took two days for the quilters to cut the blocks for the quilt, with it taking two more days for them to sew the blocks together.
“Today we are especially happy to award this quilt to Jim Freeman for his service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation in combat,” said Arnold.
Freeman joined the Army Reserves in December 1985, attending basic and advanced training in 1986 and 1987 as a heavy equipment operator assigned to C Company, 463rd Engineer Battalion in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Freeman was deployed to Iraq in 2004-05 as a platoon sergeant.
“It is a lot harder to come home…. The fight doesn’t end on the battlefield, it also continues when you get back home and it is a struggle,” said Freeman, reflecting on the story behind Quilt of Valor.
Freeman later became an instructor for the First of the 80th Engineer Battalion in Kingwood, West Virginia, before being promoted to first sergeant of the 779th Engineer Company (Horizontal) in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He returned to the 1-80th Engineer Battalion and served in the capacities of horizontal section leader/course manager and is currently the Sergeant Major of Instruction for the battalion.
He recently completed the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy non-residence course and is scheduled to attend the residential phase in February 2017.
During his time with the Army Reserves, Freeman has received numerous awards, including, the Bronze Star Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” and 30-year device, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal (2), Army Achievement Medal (2), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (8), Army Service Ribbon, NCO Professional Development Ribbon (4), Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon (5), Meritorious Unit Commendation, and Physical Fitness Badge (13 consecutive awards). He has also been awarded the Sharpshooter Badge (rifle), two Expert Badges (hand grenade and pistol) and Driver’s Badge (wheeled).
Freeman is a graduate of Southern High School and Ohio University and has been employed as a wildlife specialist/watershed coordinator for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District in Pomeroy since 2000. He and his wife of 25 years, Mary, have two adult daughters, Chelsea and Victoria.