Vallonia man presented Quilt of Valor

For Bonita Dobbs, the waterworks started as soon as a quilt was wrapped around her husband, Jim “Storm” Dobbs.

Surrounded by their family and friends, the moment Jim received a Quilt of Valor is one both will remember for years to come.

The Quilts of Valor Foundation recognizes men and women for their service to the country by presenting them with handmade quilts. The mission statement is “to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”

Bonita said the tears she shed were good tears.

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“He’s very proud of being able to serve his country, and he would go tomorrow if they were to call him up,” she said of Jim, 72.

“I think for our veterans, our Vietnam veterans in particular, they weren’t welcomed back in a way that they should be,” she said. “For him, it really takes this to a new level to be recognized for your service as a Vietnam veteran versus some of the other places where they were greeted and welcomed back for a job well done for protecting the country. It has special meaning, I think, for our Vietnam veterans.”

Kay Miller of Bloomfield and Lorrie Chaney of Bedford from Southern Indiana Quilts of Valor traveled to the home of the Dobbs’ friends, Chuck and Marianne Willacker, in Seymour to surprise Jim with the quilt.

Jim said he typically isn’t a fan of surprises, but this was a good one.

“I can deal with this,” he said. “These are great people. Chuck and Marianne are just phenomenal.”

Having his family there — some from as far away as Chicago and Indianapolis and others from Jackson County — was special, too.

“Some of them were at home, and I told them we had to come here and see Chuck and Marianne for a little bit, but I didn’t know they were going to follow me,” he said, smiling. “It means everything.”

Marianne found out about Quilts of Valor while attending a conference through a women’s organization at her church. Miller was there to present a quilt to the international director and her husband, both of whom were in the U.S. Air Force.

“Marianne was so touched by the presentation that she caught me after I was done, she goes, ‘I need a business card. I need to do this. I have somebody very special in mind,’ and that was you,” Miller said to Jim on Saturday before presenting him with the quilt.

Marianne said she filled out the online application in the spring and received a call in mid-July letting her know Jim was chosen to receive a quilt.

“When she called me … I was crying because I wasn’t expecting to hear for about a year,” Marianne said.

“I can’t think of anybody more deserving,” Chuck said. “Coming home, he didn’t get a lot of recognition. (The war) was kind of an unpopular thing, and now especially, he’s very deserving.”

Southern Indiana Quilts of Valor started in 2009 and so far this year has had more than 120 quilts ordered, Miller said. She and Chaney are part of a group of 11 people who make the quilts for current and former military service members who live in the southern part of the state.

“We hope it brings you many years of warmth and love because that’s really what this is about, and we really want you to use it,” Miller said.

“I certainly will,” Jim said.

Miller then presented a certificate to Jim that says, “The Quilts of Valor Foundation wishes to recognize you for your service to our nation. We consider it a privilege to honor you. Though we may never know the extent of your personal sacrifice and service to protect and defend the United States of America, as an expression of gratitude, we award you this Quilt of Valor.”

“Thank you all so very much,” Jim said. “I really wouldn’t know what to say just other than thank everybody for this incredible honor. It’s just really remarkable and awesome.”

Miller then asked Jim to share information about his background and military service.

Jim said he was born in Co-Operative, Kentucky, and his family moved to the Muncie area when he was 3.

At 19, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

“I was actually considering signing up for the Navy when I got draft papers,” Jim said. “The mail deliveryman was a recruiter for the Navy, and every time he would see me out there, he was hitting me up and hitting me up and he almost had me talked into it, and then I got those papers that say, ‘Welcome.'”

Jim went through basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and then was set to serve as a small vehicle mechanic.

“But when you get in Vietnam, it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “When you got over there, you went where they told you to go, and I ended up in a combat engineer outfit, built highways and bridges and fought off the VC (Viet Cong) while they were trying to keep us from putting a road together. It was not a good place to be, but we survived it.”

Jim served from 1966 to 1972.

“I don’t talk to a whole lot of people about some of that stuff,” he said of his time in Vietnam.

When he returned home, he worked in water conditioning systems in Muncie and Anderson for about 16 years. In 2001, he moved to Jackson County to help take care of his mother, and some of his other family members lived here, too.

He lived in Brownstown for about a dozen years before moving to Vallonia.

Knowing he served his country means a lot to Jim.

“Even though I was drafted, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. If I got called, I was going to go because that was my duty as an American,” he said.

“If they called me to serve again right now, even though I hobble around and can’t hardly stand up straight, I would be there,” Jim said. “I think it would be my duty, and I think it would serve as a purpose for others to stand up for their country and fight for something that’s good.”

From his service, though, he has dealt with various types of cancers caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The powerful herbicide was used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War to eliminate forest cover and crops for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, according to

The most commonly used herbicide contained the deadly chemical dioxin, and it was later proven to cause serious health issues, including cancer, birth defects, rashes and severe psychological and neurological problems, among the Vietnamese people and returning U.S. servicemen and their families, the website states.

Bonita said Jim has two cancers in his lungs.

“One is less than 1% of all cancers and related to Agent Orange,” she said. “The other cancer is metastatic cancer from throat cancer in 2017, so his case is rare because of the rare cancer and having two types of lung cancers.”

In November 2018, Jim was given six to 16 months to live. Every three weeks, he goes to Cancer Treatment Centers of America north of Chicago for treatment.

“God has blessed us and answered prayers because the rare sarcomatoid carcinoma has shrunk about 50%, and the squamous cells carcinoma have shrunk and no new tumors,” Bonita said. “He is currently receiving maintenance therapy and will continue to until there’s a change.”

Between fighting for his country and fighting cancer, Bonita said her husband is tough.

“My husband is a fighter and a hero in every sense of the word,” she said. “I am so honored and proud to be his wife.”

Every time he looks at the quilt, Jim said he’s going to think about the day he received it and everyone who was there to be a part of the honor.

“The blanket is a symbol of love and to say thank you and to show appreciation that you weren’t given because not all Americans (during the war) felt like that,” Miller said to Jim. “So it is an honor and a privilege, and this isn’t just from writing on a certificate. It’s to honor you and other fellow brothers of Vietnam that did not get that welcome back, so welcome home.”

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For information about the Quilts of Valor Foundation, visit

For information about the southern Indiana group, visit