Veteran Has Heartwarming Experience After Reunion
To The Editor:
At our Class of ’57 reunion in April, we recognized and honored the veterans of our class. It was a very heartwarming event for us all.
One of those we honored was Charles Norton, who retired from the Air Force as a Chief Master Sergeant after 23 years of service. In 1984, it was discovered that he had suffered from exposure to Agent Orange during one of his tours in Vietnam, and it critically affected his left leg. This, however, has not deterred his mission to assist veterans and their spouses to get the earned benefits they deserve. He speaks all over the country wherever he is asked and whenever he is needed.
Something very wonderful happened to Charles just this week, and he shared that with me in the following e-mail on May 22.
I thought I would share this with you. Yesterday I received an email from a retired veteran who I do not know and have never met. He informed me that a 3rd grade grammar school class about 25 miles away was expecting me to appear so they present me a one-of-a-kind hand made quilt and that I needed to be at the school the next morning (today).
This caught me completely off guard and I was perplexed by it all. Turns out there is a group across the country who is known as “Quilts for Valor” that put forth a lot of effort to make one-of-a-kind quilts and present them to certain vets.
I had never heard of them before. Anyway, each of the kids in that 3rd grade class had their own square on the quilt to write whatever they chose to write. Once they did that, the squares were collected, passed to a couple of ladies in Tenn who sew them together and make a beautiful quilt.
I called early this morning and set up a time with the teacher. Needed to get this done right away since school is over for this year on Friday.
I arrived at the school, and was met by the teacher, the school principal and a wonderful group of around 30 kids. The teacher approached me and said…are you CHIEF Norton? I acknowledged and she introduced me to the principal and the class. We then went into the library where they had a rocking chair for me to sit in while the kids surrounded me and held the quilt up for pictures to be made.
The teacher and all of the kids were telling me how proud they were of me for protecting our country and them. I could not hold back the tears.
It was such an emotional moment for me…having these young 3rd graders thanking me for something I did long before they were even born.
Given the fact that I was spit on when I returned from Vietnam, was called a baby killer, a murderer and much more, I could not contain myself and I just let it go. That moment was so very special to me. With tears still streaming, I asked if I could hug each one of them…they quickly lined up for their turn.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me and I cannot adequately express the feelings and emotions I felt deep down inside. I will sleep soundly tonight beneath the beautiful quilt that was especially made just for me. I have read and re-read the words written on the quilt by those precious children and it makes my chest swell with pride and joy. It was all worthwhile and I would endure it again for my country and its true citizens.
I believe that some of the most significant and humbling moments in our lives come when we can say “thank you” to someone who has done something completely unselfish for us. Charles was recognized by 30 children and their remarkable teacher in Tennessee as one of those who deserved their thanks. Observing Memorial Day and Veterans Day gives us that opportunity, too. God bless them all and God bless America!
Mary Skipper Miller