The story behind recent quilt presentation had a special meaning for one veteran

Hunter Herbaugh Ranger-review Staff Writer
Sunday, June 19, 2022
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Right: Bill Hartl received a quilt at the Quilts of Valor organization’s ceremony on Armed Forces Day on May 21. His wife Sheila was at his side at the ceremony and had a hand in the quilt’s creation. Above: The quilt that was presented to Bill Hartl. The heart blocks were provided by Sheila and the quilt itself was mostly made by his sister-in-law, Darla Pierce, before she passed away last year. Submitted photos

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“They’re here for us. We should be there for them.”

Those are the words from a memorial honoring U.S. marines that was found by Sheila Hartl, which made her think of her own husband, Bill Hartl. Bill is a veteran from the Vietnam War and was among those honored on May 21, Armed Forces Day, at a ceremony in Glendive.

The local Quilts of Valor organization held a public ceremony at Our Park in observation of Armed Forces Day, awarding a handful of veterans the organization’s signature hand-made quilts as a thanks for their service.

However, Bill’s quilt stood out, maybe not visually as each quilt is already unique in that regard, but he, Sheila and the QOV knew exactly how special it was, as his sister-in-law, local resident Darla Pierce, that made him receiving it possible in the first place. Unfortunately, Pierce was not able to award the quilt to her brother or attend the ceremony as she passed away last September.

With Pierce’s absence, Bill’s quilt held much more meaning. According to Sheila, Pierce was the one who nominated her brother for a quilt in the first place and was also the one who made it. Sheila provided some hearts to be added to the quilt, but credits Pierce for the rest of the quilt’s existence.

“We met up in South Dakota and she talked about nominating Bill, to thank him for his service. I gave her the heart blocks for it and she started putting it together. She got most of it done but passed away before she could finish it, so Sharon Schmitz (another Quilts of Valor member) finished it,” Sheila said.

Though Sheila and Bill don’t live in Glendive, as they move between Minnesota and New Mexico, they were in town on Armed Forces Day as they planned to attend the high school graduation that weekend as well for a family member.

Sheila said she felt the ceremony was great. The temperature was a bit colder, the skies were gray and a few drops of rain came down, but nothing was going to take away from the spirit of the day. Bill’s name was read, he stepped up and the quilt that his sister-in-law made for him was draped carefully over his shoulders.

“We all knew there was so much meaning behind that quilt,” Sheila said. “Bill is a quiet guy but he was very honored.”

Of course, though she was there in spirit, Pierce’s absence was notable, with Sheila saying it was the only thing that she wished would have been different.

“It was perfect, the only thing that wasn’t perfect was Darla wasn’t there,” she said.

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