Written by Jack Ries
In January of this year, a new group took shape in Marietta for the purpose of honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces, as well as those who serve our veterans. This group was the brainchild of members of various local American Legions, and the American Legion Riders of Post 466 here in Marietta. It operates under the authority of the American Legion, and it is an all-volunteer, non-profit, group that runs 100% off of donations. So, what is it? It’s called “Blankets of Honor”.
As of 2016, there were around 20.4 million military veterans in the United States. Over 840,000 of those veterans live in Pennsylvania, and approximately 32,000 of them live in Lancaster County. Many veterans, regardless of age or time since they served, can get to a point where they feel that people have forgotten or don’t care about the sacrifices they made during their service in the US Armed Forces. That’s where Blankets of Honor comes in. The American Legion Riders at Post 466 are comprised of veterans, sons and daughters of veterans, and civilians who genuinely care about the well-being of our former servicemen and women. They want to make sure that our local veterans know that there are still people who care about their service and are thankful for it.
On the day of a presentation, the Legion Riders will meet up, and ride as a group to the veteran’s location; be that a home, hospital, or care facility. Once there, they will begin a presentation that highlights the veteran’s time in service, any conflicts they were involved in, and any medals or awards of distinction that the veteran received while in service. They will then present the honoree with a blanket that features the logo of their branch of service. As the blanket is wrapped around the recipient, they are reminded that all veterans, much like the fibers of this blanket, are interwoven together; that if one falters, the rest are there to support them. This is essentially the mission of Blankets of Honor- to not only honor our veterans, but to also let them know that they have a support system, and that there are many others out there who are just like them, people who they can count on to help them in a time of need, or to just be a set of ears to listen to old war stories.
As of the time of the writing of this article, Blankets of Honor has presented thirteen veterans with blankets, and they have an ever-growing list of potential recipients already in hand. One recent presentation of note was on July 21st, when they presented Bainbridge resident and WWII veteran Howard Mohr Sr. with a blanket and commemorative challenge coin on his 100th birthday (with all social distancing practices being followed, of course). I got to be a part of that presentation, and I can tell you that Howard was both humbled and overjoyed to have his service remembered and honored. The look of happiness on his face is one that I will not soon forget. It filled me with a sense of pride to know that I had helped make such a monumental birthday a special and memorable one for him.
As I stated earlier, Blankets of Honor is run by volunteers, and funded completely by donations. If you would like to volunteer, donate funds, blankets, commemorative coins etc., or just contact the group to get a better feel for what they’re all about, there are a multitude of ways to do that. You can swing by their Facebook page to see pictures and videos from recent presentations; the videos are also posted to YouTube. The group is on LinkedIn and Instagram, as well. If you’d like to contact the group directly, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to donate financially, you can write a check to American Legion Riders Post 466, memo: Blankets of Honor. The group also has Cashapp, Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle accounts. If you would like to donate blankets, you can mail them to Marietta Post 466 19 S. Gay St. Marietta, PA 17547, Attn: Legion Riders, or you can drop them off in person. Blankets of Honor also has merchandise for sale. If you’d like to help out financially and get something to show for it, you can purchase patches, stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, cell phone covers, even face masks and fanny packs, from their shop on Teespring.com. Just go to www.teespring.com and search for “Blankets of Honor.” Lastly, if there is a veteran who you would like to honor with a blanket presentation, the group has an online document that you can fill out to potentially get your veteran on the list. Just send an email to the address listed above, stating that you’d like to nominate a recipient, and someone from the group will send you a link to the Google document that is used for applications.
2020 has certainly been a strange year so far, but it’s comforting to me to know that there are still people out there who want to help others. Even with everything going on in the world right now, the American Legion Riders and the volunteers at Blankets of Honor have not faltered in their mission to bring love, comfort, and honor to those who have served. And you know what? That makes me feel pretty good. The next time you see the Legion Riders coming through your neighborhood, on their way to a blanket presentation, remember that there’s still good in this world, and there’s still people willing to do it.
Written by Jack Ries