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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Vietnam veteran receives Quilt of Valor: Neal Franklin loved his job as traffic controller in Army

Emily Tate, of Quilts of Valor, left, presents a quilt to U.S. Army veteran, who served during the Vietnam War. Neal Franklin  and his wife Gail, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 at St Joseph Care Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Emily Tate, of Quilts of Valor, left, presents a quilt to U.S. Army veteran, who served during the Vietnam War. Neal Franklin and his wife Gail, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 at St Joseph Care Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A small group of friends, family and staff members gathered at Providence St. Joseph Care Center on Feb. 4 to honor Vietnam veteran Neal Franklin with a Quilt of Valor.

Franklin grew up on a wheat farm in Lind, Washington, and served in the Army from 1961 to 1981. An air traffic controller, he was stationed around the world, including stints in Korea and Vietnam.

He loved his job.

“I’d rather be an air traffic controller than anything else,” Franklin said. “It’s not stressful if you enjoy it.”

Asked the best part of his job, he chuckled.

“Keeping the aircraft from colliding!” he said.

Nursing assistant Dan Coon nominated Franklin for the quilt.

Coon put an arm around Franklin’s wheelchair and knelt beside him.

“I’ve taken care of lots of veterans, but this guy resonated with me,” he said. “He reminds me of my dad. We’re kindred souls.”

Franklin grinned at him.

“He takes good care of me,” he said, reaching up to pat Coon’s shoulder.

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. Greater Spokane QOV member Emily Tate presented Franklin with the red, white and blue quilt.

She knows full well the courage and sacrifice veterans make. Tate, a retired lieutenant colonel, served 22 1/2 years in the Air Force.

“I was in the fourth class at the Air Force Academy that allowed women,” she said.

Her mother taught her to sew, and she made her first quilt in Girl Scouts. She still has it.

Quilt blocks accompanied her all over the world during her time in the service. From the European theater to Saudi Arabia, she said quilting was her “peaceful time.”

After retiring in 2005, she worked at Log Cabin Dry Goods, and purchased a long-arm sewing machine.

“Quilts of Valor asked me to do some quilting, and I got involved with the group about 10 years ago,” Tate said.

A year and a half ago, she started doing QOV presentations.

“It keeps me in touch with the military community,” she said. “These are my brothers and sisters.”

At St. Joseph she read a brief biography of Franklin, then presented him with his quilt.

“The Quilt of Valor that you are about to receive is unique – just like you and your life,” said Tate. “It’s made especially for you. May it forever comfort you and remind you that you are loved, you are remembered, and your service is greatly appreciated.”

Then with the help of Gail, Franklin’s wife of 60 years, Tate revealed the detailed quilt featuring an eagle in the center.

“I love eagles,” Franklin said.

With his permission, Tate wrapped the quilt around his shoulders, hugging him in a warm embrace.

Cocooned in the warmth of his quilt, Franklin didn’t hesitate when asked why he signed up to serve, when his country was at war.

“I done it out of patriotism,” he said. “I really did.”

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