By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN About 125,000 Quilts of Valor have been presented to US military veterans, including five presented to area World War II veterans Sept. 14 at Delano American Legion Post 377.
“As a gesture of a grateful nation, we award you with this Quilt of Valor,” said Lenore Brown, a member of the Quilt of Valor Foundation.
Recipients included James Geyen, of Waconia; George Gackle, of Edina; Roland Daniel, of Minnetrista; James Scott, of Eagan; and Harry Swanson, of Minnetonka.
Geyen served on a Navy aircraft carrier in the South Pacific for four-and-a-half years.
“He was in all the major battles,” Geyen’s son Richard Geyen said. “In one battle, I think it was Guam, they were hit by a kamikaze plane. It didn’t do much. They survived. The men on the ship took the prop of the plane, it was aluminum, and made lucky horseshoes for everyone.”
Geyen still carries the horseshoe with him today.
Gackle served in the Navy on the USS West Virginia.
He noted that, before he was on the ship, it had been hit by seven torpedoes and two bombs, sank, and was recovered and restored.
The ship was part of the ninth battle of Surigao Strait.
“We had the most up-to-date radar,” Gackle said. “As the Japanese fleet came through the Surigao Strait, we crossed their T, meaning we could all shoot . . . and at about 2:10 in the night, we got word to start firing with our 16-inch turret.”
Gackle said he remembers to this day how it felt when they sank a Japanese battleship, saying his ship was the only US battleship to do so.
Daniel jumped into Normandy as a member of the 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment.
“Sure enough, the guy in front of me hesitated, so I shoved him and the guy behind me went with him, so when I landed, I landed all alone, and was alone for two hours,” Daniel said.
“We were so close to the ground, it seemed like the shoot opened and we hit the ground,” Daniel continued, “but no one in our plane got hurt when we jumped.”
He had been told they would be in Normandy for two to six days. After 35 days, 700 of the 2,000 soldiers who had gone into Normandy made it back to the boat.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” Daniel said.
Scott, the grandfather of Delano American Legion Auxiliary President Sam Wickert, served in the Navy, Air Force, and National Guard between 1944 and 1959.
“He actually came here tonight thinking he was going to watch me get an award,” Wickert said with a smile. “He had no idea.”
Scott served in many capacities, including baker, weather observer, sharpshooter, platoon leader, and squad leader.
“He’s done so much for our country,” Wickert said. “We are so very proud of him and love him very much.”
Swanson, born in 1917, was a Link Trainer in the Army Air Corps and helped train others at radio school. He served in the military for four-and-a-half years.
Each veteran had their quilt wrapped around them and was applauded after being introduced to those at the presentation.