By Lynell Morgan
Nearly 50 years after returning home from action in Vietnam, Randy Koinzan has received some recognition of his service and his sacrifice to this nation.
The Elgin Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary (VFWA) made a presentation this past Saturday of a patriotic quilt to Koinzan. As it was presented, Elgin VFWA President Julie Dwyer read “Randy, on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign War Auxiliary Post #5816, we present this patriotic quilt to you. The quilt was lovingly made by Margaret Jensen and donated to our organization. Our Auxiliary wanted it to be given to a veteran in our community and we could think of no one who is more deserving.
This quilt represents honor for your service. We honor you for leaving all you hold dear to stand in harm’s way, protecting us back home from the effects of war. This quilt is also meant to thank you for your service to our country and community. And finally, as quilts do, it is meant to comfort you and to remind you that you are forever in our thoughts and hearts.”
“This is the first recognition I’ve got since I’ve been back,” said Koinzan. “But that’s okay” he continued on, dismissing all those years with a “it’s no big deal” statement — an understandable response from a man who is uncomfortable to be in the spotlight.
He served in the Army from 1970-71 as a helicopter mechanic/crew chief/door gunner in the Vietnam War. A severe combat injury sent Koinzan to a hospital in Japan. “I spent 229 days in “the Butcher Ward”. He explained that the soldiers called it the Butcher Ward because it housed patients with the worst injuries. From there, he said he was transferred to the hospital at Fort Hood, TX for further recuperation. In 1971, he was medically discharged and became officially retired from the military.
Koinzan returned to his hometown, Elgin. While years have passed and time is said to fade all, he still bares the scars from his time in a war zone and the not-so-friendly welcome that he and many soldiers received when they came back to the states.
When asked about the gift of the quilt, he stated “I appreciate it very much. A lot of thought went into it”.
According to Dwyer and Juan Hoefer (Elgin VFWA Treasurer), Margaret Jensen hand-stitched the blocks. The block images are from a pattern intended for towels but Jensen thought they needed to be featured in something grander. With one side a two-toned denim and the other a patriotic fabric, a machine was used to finish off the quilt. The denim side features the outline of stars stitched in as part of the quilting process.
As the nation observes Veterans Day on Monday, November 11, let this story be a reminder to thank everyone who served. This can be done in a number of ways – through words, a smile, a handshake, a salute, a hug (if you know them well enough), attend a Veterans Day service. These can all go a long way in showing veterans that their time served was not in vain.
Veterans – Who are they?
They are a small percentage of the population that have done a big job; today less than one-half of one percent of the population have served the nation in the military.
But as they return to civilian life they are an immense reservoir of community leaders who have been strengthened by their experiences.
They are unequivocally resilient people who sought “purpose” in their lives and took action.
So…Veterans are everyday people… you know them as family, neighbors, friends, and co-workers.
They come from all walks of life, with a sense of honor, duty and conviction; they were and are proud to wear the uniforms of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
We celebrate all of them on Monday, November 11.
By Lynell Morgan