As the sun rose over the Tri-Valley on a perfect, 85-degree summer day, hundreds of people gathered at Stoneridge Creek senior living to honor resident veterans.

“Our Declaration of Independence ends with the phrase, ‘we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor,’” said organizer Kate Kelly. “From the very beginning, we’ve been dependent on one another for our well-being. The various things that bind us together — sharing risk, mutually-held beliefs, common needs, love — create a link between us. We share mutual responsibility for each other’s welfare.”

The 4th of July Quilts of Valor Ceremony celebrated 18 veterans by presenting them with heirloom quilts.

“It was a festive celebration, but with a solemn understanding of what service means and a deep appreciation for what our vets did so that we can celebrate this day,” Kelly said. “We work closely with the Amador Valley Quilters’ Quilts of Valor group, who are indefatigable in helping us honor our vets. They’ve provided so many quilts for us, it’s amazing. They never let us down — they always exceed our wishes.”

As family members, friends and neighbors looked on, veterans of the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War took their seat at the front of the room while details of their service were read aloud.

Quilter Bonnie Schwegerl said, “Military service members have agreed to place their lives on the line to protect our country and its citizens; each and every one of us owes them and their families our gratitude. And each and every Quilt of Valor is created with love and respect, and a lifetime of hugs.”

The patriotically-themed quilts often take many months and hundreds of dollars to create.

“The quilts can be simple or very detailed,” Schwegerl said. “The ladies of the Amador Valley Quilters’ Quilts of Valor are a great sisterhood, and I am proud to be a member. We’ve presented Quilts of Valor at the USS Hornet, Daughters of the American Revolution, veterans’ homes and hospitals, Pleasanton Military Families, private homes, and all-women service luncheons. We cover the Bay Area, and have presented quilts to men and women from their early 20s to 103 years young. We presented a Quilt of Valor to a 100-year-old veteran who looked at me and said, “Sweetheart, I would pick up a rifle and defend my country today, if needed.”

This was the 6th Quilts of Valor presentation at Stoneridge Creek.

Veterans honored were: Ray Austin, US Army, 1953-1958; Al Baer, US Air Force, 1961-1967; Craig Bell, US Air Force, 1967-1972; Bob Blaschka, US Navy, 1957-1961; Bill Dark, US Army, 1954-1956; Tom Horton, US Army, 1964-1969; Del Krause, US Navy, 1961-1964; Bruce Michels, US Navy, 1958-1962; Ludlow Miller, US Navy, 1958-1961; Rick Moore, US Navy, 1964-1968; Brent Myers, US Air Force, 1958-1990; Hal Nygaard, US Army, 1953-1955; Vic Olcott, US Air Force, 1955-1989; John Piggott, US Army, 1964-1966; Bob Ricks, US Army, 1969-1971; Doug Shackley, US Marine Corps, 1957-1961; Bob Steuben, US Navy, 1961-1991; and Steve Thomas, US Navy, 1958-1960.

In addition, the ceremony honored the spouses of veterans, Stoneridge Creek staff veterans, and the resident veterans who passed away over the past year: Rene Aufort, Dean Bailey, Eli Bernzweig, Randy Cotton, Don Devlin, Murray Leavitt, Stan Miller, Bill Schneider, and Don Veca.

“We invited the widows of our vets to participate by helping the quilters present the quilts. We show them we never forget,” Kelly said. “We hope all of the attendees took away a sense of what it takes to provide our democratic way of life, and that it gave them a moment to reflect on how it’s possible that we enjoy the freedoms we take for granted every day.”