Veteran’s service honored one stitch at a time

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A well-known local figure got some unexpected attention on Thursday.

Dr. Thomas Long, a retired physician and a veteran of World War II, was in the spotlight during a brief ceremony at the beginning of the Roxboro Rotary Club’s weekly meeting.

Long was being recognized by an organization called Quilts of Valor. The volunteer organization creates quilts to give as gifts to veterans.

“We have a declining number of World War II veterans and they did a tremendous amount of work to preserve this country,” said Colleen Sain, who presented the quilt to Long on behalf of the organization. “They deserve recognition over and over and over again. We are losing opportunities to thank them.”

Long was nominated for the recognition by Hickory filmmaker Tamara Nance. Nance, who recently completed a documentary about four Hickory-area World War II veterans and knew Long through her friendship with Long’s daughter-in-law Melanie.

After Nance completed her documentary, she asked the Quilts of Valor organization to present quilts to the four men who were subjects of the documentary Journey Home. “I needed to enhance that. I needed some more. I was really interested in Dr. Long’s story and felt like he really needed to be honored too,” Nance said.

Established in 2003, Quilts of Valor has awarded more than 242,000 handmade quilts to veterans nominated for the honor.

In presenting Long’s quilt to him before a roomful of Long’s family and fellow Rotary Club members all of whom stood throughout the ceremony, Sain called the quilt an expression of gratitude.

“It is meant to bring you joy and to remind you that we have not forgotten all you did to ensure our freedom in America,” Sain told Long. “Your quilt of valor unequivocally says thank for your service, for your valor and for serving our nation.”

Long, who enlisted in the Navy in 1944, trained as a medical corpsman and served in the South Pacific, was surprised by the recognition.

“There are many more besides me. I was fortunate, the lord was with me. I saw a lot of bad stuff,” Long said. “But I was glad he was with me and I was able to come back and have my four sons and 15 grandchildren. I think we’re doing pretty well now.”

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