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World War II veteran recongized for service

By Staff | Jun 18, 2020

A World War II veteran unable to celebrate his birthday and Memorial Day, which fell on the same day this year, was honored in a special way by local veteran organizations.

Frank Mortillo, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in many places around the world, including Iwo Jima, turned 95 on a day the country honors veterans who lost their life while serving.

Mortillo, who has been staying in his Cape Coral home due to the coronavirus pandemic, was saddened to not be able to go out and honor his fallen comrades or to celebrate another year of life. That sadness vanished thanks to an organization called Quilts of Valor, as well as local veteran Dick Kennedy, a member of the area Vietnam Brotherhood.

Kennedy presented Mortillo with a hand-sewn, patriotic fabric quilt on behalf of the organization on June 7. Kennedy had also bestowed him with the Vietnam Brotherhood Challenge Coin as well as the National Veterans of Foreign War Challenge Coin on Memorial Day.

“His eyes sparkled and he was delighted upon receiving the quilt,” Kennedy said.

Mortillo draped the quilt around his shoulders and body, smiling from ear-to-ear.

His surprise came thanks to Kennedy, as well as Quilts of Valor Central Florida and its representative, Susan Skuda.

Skuda saw Kennedy’s Memorial Day interaction with Mortillo on social media and thought, “We must honor this veteran immediately.”

Kennedy, a Quilts of Valor member himself, was more than happy to deliver the quilt to Mortillo.

“He was virtually homebound on the holiday and his birthday, so a few of his friends contacted several veteran organizations to see what could be done,” Kennedy said, “Most had already filled their calendars, so the Vietnam Brotherhood and I decided to honor him in a small way.”

That’s when Quilts of Valor decided to join in Kennedy’s plight to recognize Mortillo and all he has done to serve his country.

Kennedy said Mortillo, who was joined by family, shared stories of his experiences in Bougainville, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and the Philippines.

Quilts of Valor began in 2003, when founder Catherine Roberts had a dream after her son was deployed to Iraq.

“The dream was as vivid as real life. I saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter,” reads her online testimony. “Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and wellbeing. The quilt had made this dramatic change. The message of my dream was: quilts equal healing.”

Roberts’ idea was for these quilts to be awarded, not just handed out. They are also quality-made.

She wants the quilts to say, “Thank you for your service, sacrifice, and valor in serving our nation in combat.”

Their mission statement is “to cover all those service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”

The non-profit organization is now nationwide.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj