Embrace a Veteran: Two Air Force veterans honored with Quilt of Valor

Embrace a Veteran: Quilt of Valor Surprise

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - As a veteran, a great show of honor is to be nominated and receive a quilt from Quilts of Valor.

Two Grand Strand veterans were surprised to be awarded the honor at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 30 meeting in March.

It's a touching moment that's months in the making. The quilts are handmade by volunteers, sometimes even tailored to that veteran.

Chapter 30 commander Jamie Lleras said over 470 veterans are part of the chapter.

After supper, Lleras introduced Quilts of Valor representatives who began their presentation. Friends and family of the two veterans, who said this was their hint they were getting a quilt, accompanied the dozens of veterans into a packed room.

"Think about how your lives would be changed if you didn't have these freedoms and rights provided by our veterans,” a Quilts of Valor volunteer said.

Other volunteers picked up the quilts and Donald Kight’s name was the first one to be read.

Kight, an Air Force Vietnam veteran, stepped up from the table with his family to receive his quilt.

The next name to be announced was Chapter 30 commander Jamie Lleras.

Both men stood in front of their quilts before they were draped over their shoulders.

“Were you surprised?” WMBF’s Meredith Helline asked Lleras.

“No, not until I saw all my neighbors here,” Lleras responded.

"I was surprised when I saw my whole family come in, I knew something was wrong,” Kight said with a laugh.

"I'm very honored to receive one of these. I know guys that have received all of these and it's touching, it's very rewarding,” Lleras said.

Kight said he feels the same.

Originally from West Virginia, Kight went into the Air Force after high school graduation. He served 30 years but said his most memorable day in the service was during his time in Europe. He told WMBF News he met his wife in Germany.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Lleras grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He's also an Air Force veteran. He also lived much of his adult life in Maryland.

“I'm from Maryland, and I've never seen so much support for veterans as I have here in South Carolina, everywhere in South Carolina,” Lleras explained.

Lleras said in addition to the Air Force, he spent 21 years with the Maryland Air National Guard 175th Fighter Wing.

During that time, he was a First Sergeant, a human resource advisor and retired as the Wing Command Chief in May of 2004. He retired after 29 years of service.

While they were both touched by the honor, Kight couldn't wait to get it home on that chilly night.

“I'm going to put it on my bed tonight,” Kight said.

Thank you for your service.

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