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VA clinic ‘freedom quilts’ honor legacy of 5 local WWII Veterans

WWII Veterans receive quilt
World War II Veterans attend a patient recognition ceremony Feb. 7 at PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom VA Clinic in Colorado Springs. Presented with a “freedom quilt” in honor of their service was Army Veteran Louis Schindler, 99; Army Veteran Edwin Beck, 97; Navy Veteran Carl Eastridge, 100; and Army Veteran Helen Rydell, 99. A fifth chair was reserved for a 96-year-old WWII Veteran who could not attend.

“All of a sudden I had a World War II Veteran come to the mental health desk and ask, ‘Can you tell me how I can get a quilt?’,” said Scott Beaver, a medical support assistant in VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS).

Standing at a podium facing rows of Veterans, spouses and caregivers, flanked by care teams peering over two floors of railings, Beaver recalled the encounters in December that prompted a patient recognition ceremony at PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom VA Clinic in Colorado Springs.

“I had five World War II Veterans in that one day come to me,” said Beaver, about a day overshadowed by the death of his stepmother. She had regularly boasted about his “freedom quilt” workshops, and the Veteran legacies the projects honored. “It was a message.”

Where possible, Beaver asked the clinic’s Veterans and providers to pause at noon Feb. 7, look toward the fireplace at the center of the open 76,000-square-foot outpatient facility, and learn about the five local WWII Veterans who would each get a handmade quilt.

Two junior ROTC units from Colorado Springs School District 11 kicked off the ceremony by presenting the colors. The high school cadets marched service flags to the WWII Veterans.

The cadets faced Army Veterans Edwin Beck and Louis Schindler who were turning 98 and 99 years old, respectively. Army Veteran Helen Rydell, 99, was seated between 100-year-old Navy Veteran Carl Eastridge and a chair for a 96-year-old WWII Veteran who could not attend.

“There aren’t many of us left,” said Beck, the first of the group to ask about the colorful quilts.

"It was the saddest day of my life when I had to lay down my weapon and surrender," said Beck. He still recalls the Luger holstered by the Nazi interrogator considering any connections to Ludwig Beck, a former German general who conspired the prior summer to kill Adolf Hitler.

“I went through hell, I know that,” said Beck, holding a folded quilt and a pouch of memories, including a copy of the telegram sent to his mother when he went missing in action. “You can read about it, you can hear about it, but it’s not the same as being there.”

"I'm just glad that I came into this world, and I could help this great country," he said. “The heroes are the ones who gave their one and only life.”

WWII is marked as the most widespread war in history. More than 100 million people served, including 16 million U.S. service members, according to VA statistics. Many today are receiving VA benefits, including pension, compensation and health care.

According to VA estimates, out of the 16 million who served in the U.S. military during WWII, nearly 120,000 are living, close to 2,000 in Colorado. VA projections suggest within five years the number of living WWII Veterans will drop below 20,000, fewer than 300 in Colorado.

‘We honor their legacy’

With a $5,000 grant from the VA ECHCS Center for Development and Civic Engagement, Beaver started the freedom quilt workshops in October 2021 at the VA clinic in Colorado Springs.

More than 25 volunteers are now involved, some completing quilt blocks from home. Everyone gets fabric kits with pattern instructions, along with access to tools and equipment.

The Navy Veteran’s weekend volunteers have finished more than 50 freedom quilts. They donate their projects to assisted-living facilities, homeless support programs and other Veteran support services. Family members and friends have requested them for Veterans of all eras, including Medal of Honor recipients.

“It’s my opportunity to give back,” said Penny Talley, a volunteer who started quilting 36 years ago while her husband was serving in Italy. She teaches basic and creative quilting skills, sometimes for Veterans who volunteer to reduce symptoms associated with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Many of our quilts are attached to comfort animals that kids can hold, cuddle and play with, and take home,” said Talley. They had created more than 60 comfort animals for when children accompany a parent seeking mental health care under extreme circumstances.

The freedom quilt workshops depend on volunteers and donations. The quilters were recently gifted roughly 10 boxes of fabric. They’re now working to get additional batting for insulation.

“A Veteran is never forgotten, as long as we honor their legacy,” said Beaver. “Talk to a Veteran. Learn from a Veteran. Let their legacy live.”

To participate in the freedom quilt workshops or donate materials, contact the VA ECHCS Center for Development and Civic Engagement at To nominate local Veterans for a freedom quilt, send their stories to

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