Veteran presented ‘Quilt of Valor’ for service in Vietnam
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Ron Nereson returned home from Vietnam in 1970 there were no ticker-tape parades and no community gatherings to honor him for his service in a country half a world away.
“I think that people’s lives went on even though a few of us were missing from the community. I’m not certain that we were missed when we left, and I think that I was able to absorb right back into the community right where we left off without people even knowing that I had been absent,” Nereson said. “It’s not like a young boy comes back and starts up the conversation by saying, ‘Oh, I’m just back from Vietnam.’ No, that didn’t happen.”
Fifty years after serving his country, Nereson is still filled with pride for what he did while serving and for the soldiers and officers who made the journey with him. Now, thanks to the efforts of an organization called Quilt of Valor he was finally recognized for his service to his county.
“I felt like I’d been awarded the Medal of Honor,” Nereson said of getting a quilt in Steamboat’s Little Toots Park last week. “I don’t even possess the words to describe the comfort that it brings to me. It was really rewarding to be handed the quilt.”
Alice Erickson, a friend of Nereson, worked with the Quilts of Valor Foundation to create the quilt that was presented July 1 in Steamboat. Quilts of Valor has presented 251,138 quilts to those that have served in times of war. The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts of valor.
“Oftentimes we don’t know that people are veterans,” Erickson said. “I like for it to be a reminder that this person has served our country and we need to honor them and appreciate all the sacrifice that he or she made.
Nereson, a 1967 graduate of Hayden High School, and has spent his entire life in Hayden, where he lives in the home that he grew up in with his wife, Sharon.
Nereson was drafted in 1968 went to basic training Fort Lewis in Washington and left for Vietnam in January 1969. He spent time in Vietnam near Da Nang where he was stationed on a fire support base at landing zone Baldy with the First Battalion, 46th Infantry, 198th Brigade that was a part of the newly reactivated Americal Division the largest Army force in Vietnam.
He was later sent to Landing Zone Professional some 20 miles west of Chu Lai where he was part of a company that swept the enemy out of the area. He was in that position until March 1970, when he boarded a plane that they called freedom birds plane and returned to the U.S. He earned national defense and Vietnam campaign ribbons, a combat infantry badge and the Bronze Star.
In addition to his honors, Nereson also returned to the U.S. with three lifelong friends. One of those friends Vince Iturbe, who was living in Salt Lake City, Utah, worked hard to bring the group back together on American soil.
“Almost 20 years went by after Vietnam, and Vince tried to get us all together,” Nereson said. “I think most of us drug our feet at that, but we did get together, and then we started meeting every 10 years and, as the more time has gone by, we’ve shortened the time between those meetings.”
The group that also included Ben Hancock and Frank Blanch has continued to get together. Sadly, Iturbe passed away in 2017.
“I went there as a representative of the United States’ people. And that’s what I told Alice, you know, when I was drafted, I answered the call of duty. I did exactly what I was told. And we, we did the things that our nation wanted us to do, Nereson said. “Alice is also answering the call of duty. She makes these quilts and hands them out to people, no strings attached, and thanks them for their service.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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