When Charles “Skip” Gier returned after a year fighting in the Vietnam War, he didn’t get a parade.
Or a party.
Or much of anything, really.
“Surely they had a welcome home for you?” asked Doris Brower, a new friend.
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“No,” said Gier, 69, of Kennewick, shaking his head.
“Even my family — when I came home, it was like, OK,” he said. “Nobody brought it up. I never did figure out why, what everybody was afraid of.”
There was no fear Wednesday when Brower and more than a dozen others honored Gier for his service, four decades after the war.
They gave him handshakes and hugs, words of thanks, and a lovely handmade quilt meant to offer comfort and healing.
Brower, 96, helped make the quilt through the local Quilts of Valor chapter.
“It’s been a privilege for me to be involved,” Brower said after the quilt presentation. “I think it’s really important, because (people like him) make our country safe and strong. They often didn’t make it home. So, it’s a privilege.”
The ceremony was at Brookdale Canyon Lakes in Kennewick, the retirement community where Brower lives.
Gier was lured there under pretense — asked to do a friend a favor — and was surprised to be the star of the afternoon.
He and Brower were brought to the front of the room.
John Cole, a Vietnam veteran who works with Quilts of Valor, shared the story of Gier’s wartime service.
He joined the Navy in 1966 and volunteered for Vietnam, arriving in 1968 during the Tet Offensive. He served as a door gunner on helicopters supporting Navy SEALs, which was then a relatively new military force.
Mick Hemphill, another Vietnam vet who works with Quilts of Valor — a national group that provides quilts to service members and veterans touched by war — read a letter from quilters to Gier.
“We believe as we sew, (that) love, caring and gratitude flow from our hearts and through our hands into the developing quilt. We all, as quilters, want you to know that through our quilts, you will be forever in our hearts,” the letter said.
“A Quilt of Valor does not judge; its sole purpose is to honor, comfort and heal you for the sacrifice you made in serving our country,” it said. “... Though we may never know the depth of your sacrifice to protect and defend the United States of America, as a gesture of gratitude from a grateful nation, we ask that you accept your quilt of valor and the love that comes with it.”
Then Cole and Hemphill unfurled the quilt — it’s red, white and blue, with an American flag in the center. They wrapped it around Gier and Brower, who smiled and posed for photos.
Brower spoke briefly about her role in making the quilt.
Then it was Gier’s turn. His voice was steady, but he clearly was touched.
“Thank you to everybody who had anything to do with this. It’s really a big surprise for me,” he said. “When I came home from Vietnam, it was not a very happy time. You didn’t talk about anything that you did over there. You just sort of bit the bullet, and ate it.
“It’s nice to be home, and it’s nice to be appreciated,” he added.
He started to go on, but couldn’t. He was drowned out by loud applause.