James Earl Hardin turned 70 last Wednesday and while he was not surprised by a party thrown in his honor a few days prior to the milestone, he was surprised by one of the gifts.
At the party given by his oldest daughter Deedra and husband Eric Rogers of Booneville and hosted by both his daughters and wife of almost 50 years a secret nine months in the keeping was revealed when Hardin was presented a quilt of valor.
"The only person I told what I was working on was Eric, just in case it didn’t pan out, then no one would be none the wiser and no one would be disappointed," says Deedra Rogers. "Back in April I was contacted by Susan Richmond to let me know that everything was ready but then I wasn’t.
"I wanted Dad to know nothing about it and pulling a secret off on my dad, who goes to all the hot coffee spots in a small town was going to be a hard task. So I had to wait another long four weeks knowing that the surprise was just sitting there waiting on me."
Deedra credits God with the work.
"His perfect timing that brought it all about. Dad had a birthday coming up and a significant one at that. So a party was planned to be able to pull everything off that was the only way I knew I could make it special other than presenting it at church or the coffee shop, and we had it on May 31st," said Deedra Rogers.
The long wait to make the presentation was the finishing touches on an even longer project.
"About six years ago I wanted to do something special for my dad but life got in the way each time throughout those six years that kept it from happening. Deaths of family and friends, motorcycle accidents, two heart valve replacements things just kept coming up and putting a halt to my plans, and eventually it just stopped entering my mind, " said Deedra Rogers.
Then it did.
"One day while crafting at home the thought popped back in my head with full force and all I can say is it was God putting it there. I got online to start the process and realized I didn’t have all the required information," said Deedra Rogers. "Fortunately God had that covered for me as well because the web site would let me continue on even though I had several empty boxes. I gave names and phone numbers to people that could help me confirm his service."
Then it was on to the essay portion of the site where Deedra Rogers would have to write something that would hopefully make up for the blanks.
"All I ever knew while I was growing up about dad was he played soldier boy and wore a camo uniform and big black boots that seemed to lace up all the way to his knee caps and during homecoming week when we had camo day my sister Deanna and I would wear something of his," said Deedra Rogers. "My dad served 32 years in the military through the National Guard. After 9/11 his unit out of Paris was called to deploy to Iraq. At that time my dad was in the process of retiring.
Deedra Rogers traveled to Little Rock, Russellville and Paris to attend meetings and find out information about the deployment and she signed up to volunteer in the Family Readiness Group.
"On the day the soldiers climbed aboard a bus in front of the armory to leave out I watched my dad’s face and knew that he knew more than they did and what they would endure," said Deedra Rogers. "Having served in the Vietnam War he had more knowledge than most of the soldiers that were leaving out. My dad retired and he went home on the day his unit left out.
Still Deedra Rogers started volunteer service in the FRG that would last throughout 2010 moving to different positions and traveling to Russellville and Fort Smith to help other FRG’s get going, to train them and guide them.
"I always talked about their loved one’s homecoming and supporting them throughout the time they were away from home. While he never talked much about Vietnam, between what was said and the things that weren’t, his actions when Hollywood made certain movies and of course history and research it didn’t take much to know my dad’s homecoming was nothing like his unit’s homecoming," says Deedra Rogers. "And that’s when I decided that I wanted to do something special for him. I couldn’t go back in time and change things for him but I could participate in something that was developed specifically to honor Veterans. I contacted Quilts of Valor and my application was processed and approved and that’s when the waiting started."
The Quilt of Valor mission is to cover all our warriors and combat veterans who have been touched by war or wounded with our healing and comforting Quilts of Valor.
Blue Star mom Catherine Roberts, began the Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOVF) from her sewing room in Seaford, Del. Her son’s year-long deployment to Iraq provided the initial inspiration, and her desire to see that returning warriors were welcomed home with the love and gratitude they deserved, provided the rest.
She hit upon the idea that linking quilt-toppers with machine quilters in a national effort could achieve her goal of coverall all returning service men and women touched by war. These wartime quilts, would be a tangible reminder of an American’s appreciation and gratitude. Since 2003, QOVF has become a national grassroots community service effort, connecting the home-front with our wounded combat warriors and veterans.