American Legion Riders lined the entry of the Beatrice Veteran’s Club Saturday evening to welcome Earl Lyons as he arrived. Inside, he was honored by his family, friends and fellow veterans with a Quilt of Valor presentation.
Kim Ostermann of the American Legion Auxiliary and the American Legion Riders, began the ceremony by explaining the history of the Quilt of Valor Foundation.
The national organization was founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, a military mother, nurse and quilter after she had a terrible dream of a soldier sitting on the edge of his bed. It was a scene of gloom. In the next scene of the dream, Roberts saw him sitting on the side of his bed, wrapped in a quit. The quilt comforted him and he knew someone cared.
The foundation aims to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing "Quilts of Valor."
Roberts described a Quilt of Valor as the civilian equivalent of a Purple Heart award.
“Our quilts are awarded, not just handed out.”
As Ostermann read Lyons’ service record, the quilt was presented to him in front of an emotional audience.
Lyons joined the Army in February 1965 and completed a 16-week basic training at Fort Leonardwood, Mo. He was sent to Bomburg, Germany and served as a telephone lineman, laying phone lines for the 155 Howitzer Unit. This was a unit of large tanks in a practice war zone. Earl was in Germany for 10 months and 10 days.
Lyons then volunteered for a tour of duty in Vietnam with the 162nd Assault Helicopter Unit. He worked in communications and was a switchboard operator. Lyons was stationed in a small village called Phouc Vinn, which was about 30 miles north of Saigon in the southern part of the county.
The tour lasted one year, after which he returned home to the U.S. to Fort Riley, Kan.
Specialist 4th Class Earl Lyons was given an honorable discharge from the United States Army in February 1968.
The quilt was lovingly wrapped around Lyons as Ostermann read “We honor you for your service in the Vietnam War. We honor you for leaving your home and loved ones and all you hold dear and to stand in harm’s way in a time of crisis, protecting us from the effects of the war.
“We know that freedom is not free. We have freedom because of you and the dedication of men and women like you. This quilt is meant to say 'thank you' for your service and sacrifice. This quilt is meant to comfort you. It is a quilt from your family, friends and a grateful nation. It is to remind you that we care about you. Please don’t put it on a shelf or in storage – rather, use it.
“Thank you for your service and welcome home.”
The program order for the ceremony noted that many veterans from the Korea and Vietnam eras did not get a warm welcome home, other than from their families.
A tearful Lyons thanked everyone for the “incredible honor.” During the receiving line, he was saluted, hugged and thanked for his service.
Lyons said he was proud of his service, although he never liked to talk about it much.
He recalled mortar rounds landing and exploding on the compound for six mornings in a row around 2 a.m. That flurry was just 30 days before he was scheduled to return home. He admitted that he was scared a lot of the time he was in Vietnam, but was “fighting for the cause of freedom.”
Earl and his wife, Vera, now reside in Ogden, Iowa, but all four of his children -- Lisa Milke, Dennis Lyons, Doug Lyons and David Lyons -- live in or near Beatrice and were on hand for the ceremony.
Lisa Milke, Earl’s daughter, had contacted the American Legion Auxiliary in Ogden and arranged the details of the ceremony as a surprise when he visited Beatrice for Christmas.
Lyons has been undergoing treatment for a form of leukemia at Veteran’s Hospital in Des Moines since February 2016.
While Beatrice residents settled in for a holiday weekend accompanied by frigid temperatures and snowfall, Beatrice street department workers were busy clearing the streets during the first winter storm of the season.
The street department plans in advance for each anticipated snowfall, but working around the holiday posed an extra challenge.
Street Superintendent Jason Moore said Beatrice charted six inches of snow. He considered declaring a snow emergency, which would have prohibited parking on emergency routes, but decided against it, in part due to the timing.
“We got to thinking that, with the holiday weekend, with people coming in from out of town, it was going to be a lot to ask,” Moore said. “Plus, the storm was over a weekend and was just not going to get received by a lot of people. Declaring a snow emergency just didn’t make sense.”
Workers started clearing the streets at around 7 p.m. on Saturday, worked through the night and were able to stop by 4 p.m. Sunday, which was Christmas Eve.
“We had a fairly long shift there, but by 7 a.m. Sunday, we were already having things ridged downtown, with the snow pushed to the center. All snow routes had been treated, and we started to move into residential areas by 7:30 Sunday morning. We blade them to edge of the road and treat stop signs only.”
Crews went back to work at around 2 a.m. Tuesday morning to clear a light dusting and blew the snow downtown to be hauled off.
Moore commended the department workers for their dedication on a holiday weekend, and said there were plans in place in case the snow continued late Sunday and Monday.
“Only one of our workers has young children, and we had already made a plan beforehand that if Christmas day was affected, that morning we would let him stay with his children and I would take his place or something,” Moore said. “Family is a big thing with me, and making sure the guys were with their family on Christmas. Anybody who had their Christmas celebration interfered with by the snow, we would try and move somebody in and get them off.”
All things considered, Moore said the storm’s timing worked well for the workers and that many people were thankful for a white Christmas.
“I think, all in all, it was nice to have snow for Christmas,” he said. “A lot of people were anxious and wanted to see it come down. If there was a storm to have, other than the frigid temperatures, this was a nice storm because it was a dry snow and there were no winds. If there were high winds in this storm, things could have been a lot more difficult and we would have had a lot more hours put in.”
Authorities have recovered a vehicle reported stolen from Blue Springs last week.
The Ford Expedition, which had been reported stolen from rural Blue Springs sometime after Sunday, Dec. 17, was recovered from the Blue Springs ballfield area.
According to a press release from the Gage County Sheriff’s Office, investigators collected evidence at the scene where the vehicle was recovered and had the vehicle towed to an impound lot where investigators are processing it for evidence collection.
The vehicle was involved in a pursuit with the Beatrice Police Department.
A police officer saw what may have been the stolen vehicle driving near Second and Court streets in Beatrice last Monday and turned around to pursue the SUV.
Police said the driver of the SUV was erratic and headed west into the county. Once outside city limits, it’s believed the pursuit reached speeds near 100 mph and the officer was unable to catch the SUV.
The driver of the vehicle is also suspected in the theft of gas from the Filley One-Stop, and in a driving complaint in Beatrice.
The sheriff’s office has received information and tips on the vehicle theft during the past week. Anyone with information on the theft of the vehicle is encouraged to contact the Gage County Sheriff’s Office and speak with a deputy or an investigator.
Authorities are asking for the public’s help finding a man who fled deputies on foot during a traffic stop.
A Gage County Sheriff’s Office deputy stopped a vehicle in Blue Springs for a routine traffic infraction and the passenger, Thomas D. Sailors, 25, of Blue Springs, ran from the vehicle prior to the deputy approaching the car on Friday.
According to a press release from the department, Sailors refused to stop, went into hiding, and managed to elude deputies and investigators who checked several areas and residences in Blue Springs and Wymore to locate him.
Sailors has a felony warrant issued from Gage County Court.
The traffic stop and Sailors flight occurred a few blocks from Southern Elementary School, however school was not in session and students were not in danger. Due to no students being present, the school was not notified until later in the day, the press release stated.
Citizens who know where Sailors is are asked to contact Southeast Communications at 402-223-4080 and report his location or vehicle. Reports can be made anonymously.