CHEER toasts Veterans Day with patriotic dinner

Ret. U.S. Marine Capt. Thomas Terrell, who served 30 years active duty from 1949 to 1979, takes his turn in the candle lighting ceremony during CHEER’s Veterans Day event on Friday. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — CHEER Inc. and its family put the “wrap” on Veterans Day festivities Friday evening with a patriotic dinner event honoring all who served.

All branches of the Armed Forces were recognized at the CHEER Community Center in a 2020 program scaled back due to COVID-19. Because of pandemic restrictions, attendance was limited to 114 persons, counting CHEER staff.

“Normally, we have close to 300,” said Korean War veteran Walter Koopman, vice president of CHEER’s board of directors. “Think of the virus as an enemy. But we don’t know and don’t see this enemy until it attacks. It doesn’t have a uniform on. It just comes and does harm.”

“The crowds have been a little smaller,” said CHEER CEO Ken Bock. “This has been a different year for all of us. We are no less sincere in our appreciation and our gratitude to each and every man and woman who has put on the uniform and has served us and this great nation.”

Korean War Veterans Association Sussex Chapter 1 member Walter Koopman lights the candle as chapter president Jack McGinley shares the story of the POW-MIA Remembrance Ceremony.

Evening highlights included:

• the candle lighting ceremony, which saluted branches of the Armed Forces;

• Quilts of Valor presentations to four retired military honorees: Marine Capt. Thomas Terrell; Army Sgt/Maj. John Scheetz; John Dumas, an Air Force M/Sgt. John Dumas, who served with the Tuskegee Airmen; and Mr. Koopman, a Sgt/Maj. who served with the Army’s 21st Infantry Division in Korea in 1951-52.

As part of the presentation, Quilts of Valor honorees were ceremonially wrapped and saluted by Marguerite Niemoeller and Dana Mason, state coordinators for Quilts of Valor, today a national nonprofit whose roots were planted in Seaford in 2003.

“The wrapping is a symbolic part of our ceremony,” said Ms. Mason. “It’s indicative of the comforting and healing nature of quilts. In days past we would also have given them a hug. We leave that to family members to do.

“We consider it a privilege to honor you,” said Ms. Mason. “Though we may never know the extent of your sacrifice and service to protect and defend the United States of America, as an expression of gratitude we award you this Quilt of Valor.”

Quilts of Valor honoree John Dumas, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force/Tuskegee Airmen, is wrapped by Delaware Quilts of Valor coordinator Marguerite Niemoeller. Mr. Dumas served 24 years, from 1954-1978 during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He is a member of the John Porter Chapter/Tuskegee Airmen in Dover.

Quilts of Valor began 17 years ago by Catherine Roberts. Inspired by her son Nathaniel’s year-long deployment in Iraq, Ms. Roberts launched the Quilts of Valor Foundation from the sewing room in her Seaford home. Her mission was to see that soldiers returning to America were welcomed home with love and gratitude.

“She was a quilter and she needed to do something to remind her son that family was thinking of him,” Ms. Mason said. “And, as quilters do, we make a quilt to comfort others. From there she started making quilts for the wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C.”

It has since spread across the nation, becoming a national nonprofit in 2007.

“As of sometime this week, we have awarded 260,805 veterans Quilts of Valor,” said Ms. Mason. “Our mission is to award comforting and healing Quilts of Valor to service members and veterans touched by war. It is quite an honor to be here this evening to recognize these four gentlemen.”

Korean War Veterans Association Sussex County Chapter 1 President Jack McGinley and Mr. Koopman offered the POW-MIA ceremony, remembering those who did not return home from combat.

DJ Sky Brady stops to visit with veteran Gilbert Morris, who served with the U.S. Marines.

“This table is something that is a symbol — a symbol to all of us veterans that recognize the fact that we are here, able to enjoy a meal tonight, whereas as this is a symbol of those who are unable to be here, or to be anywhere tonight,” said Mr. McGinley. “It is set up for the one that is missing but it represents millions and millions from not only the Great War, but from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and all those actions since that time.”

The event also featured check presentations totaling $10,000 to CHEER from Mr. Koopman on behalf of the KWVA Sussex Chapter in support of CHEER’s capital campaign ($3,000) for a new commercial kitchen at the community center site, and meals for needy seniors ($7,000).

“The seniors in this county deserve the best and we will give that to them — a hot meal,” said Mr. Koopman.

DJ Sky Brady provided entertainment that included music from the 1940s/WWII Big Band era.