The Verona community celebrated its veterans with a short flag raising ceremony in snowy and windy weather in the teens. The celebration continued at the senior center for a recognition program.

Veterans were treated to a free lunch of pulled pork sandwiches and sides, homemade and lovingly served by senior center volunteers.

Following lunch, attendees watched a short documentary film about the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery’s most iconic memorial.

Commander Stan Hook, of Verona’s Legion Post 385, then became master of ceremonies as he called to order the posting of colors, presentation of arms, hand salutations and the Pledge of Allegiance. Local veterans Richard Schwenn and Don Mayo presented the flags.

Members of the five individual military branches in attendance were then recognized by being asked to stand. Members of four of the five branches were present, with only no Coast Guard members represented by the attendees.

After a moment of silence to honor those who died in the line of duty, the women of the National Mutual Benefits Branch 400 group gave carnations to the widows of fallen or deceased soldiers.

Lorlene Pulver was one of the recipients of a flower. Her husband Fredrick fought in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954. He passed away in 2012. Lorlene told the Press that four of her grandchildren have enlisted to serve in the military, inspired by their grandfather’s service.

James Quattromani, Deputy Director of Veterans Services for Dane County, took the stage as guest speaker following the presentation of flowers.

Quattromani, a former Navy SEAL who served in eastern Afghanistan, spoke about the importance of Veterans Services providing more than just annual lip service to veterans, but rather truly acting year-round to provide solace and service.

Quattromani got a rise out of the audience when he recounted about his grandmother. Quattromani said that there have been special initiatives in recent years to ensure female soldiers get proper recognition for their service. Yet, he’s always known about the contributions of women to the military because growing up he was never allowed to forget. His Czech grandmother, a tough woman from Pittsburgh, reminded him often that she served alongside his grandfather in General Patton’s army. While Quattromani’s father also served, his mother did not. However, Quattromani said being a soldier’s wife is in some ways more difficult than being a soldier and that her sacrifice also deserved to be remembered.

Quattromani encouraged the veterans to reach out to him and Dane County Veterans Service Office, ensuring them they would be met with quality services and programs and assistance with getting benefits.

Following Quattromani’s talk was the Quilts of Valor presentation. The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with hundreds of local chapters whose mission is to provide all U.S. service members with handmade quilts to honor their time served.

The quilts at the senior center ceremony were sewn and awarded by the Sugar River chapter of the Quilts of Valor, based out of Belleville.

Since being founded in 2003 by the mother of an Iraq War veteran, over 140,000 quilts have been gifted to veterans across the country.

This year, seven local veterans were awarded quilts. Peter Steinmetz, Donald Miller, Dale Koebke, Lawrence Hamm, David Berndt, Andrew Bryant and William Holets were all bestowed with the honor. Additionally, active service member Madi Smith also was awarded.

Each individual had their biography read before being draped in the quilt and hugged by members of the Sugar River Quilts of Valor. Chapter member Bev Kozelka, who conducted the presentation, emphasized the comforting importance of the hugs and said she hoped none of the veterans would object, which to date, she says none have.

“These quilts are an award, not a gift, they can not be bought,” Kozelka said.

Chapter members Linda Stolts of New Glarus, Dianna Truttmann of Mt. Horeb and Chris Scharch and Claire Zakos of Middleton worked in alternating pairs to hold{span} up the quilts, wrap the veterans and give them hugs.

The celebration concluded with senior center volunteers slicing into a beautiful cake emblazoned with the American Flag, which was homemade and donated by Miller and Sons Supermarket and was served to the veterans with fruit punch.

To view or buy the photos in the slideshow, visit smugmug.com.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal. Reporter Neal Patten can be reached through email at neal.patten@wcinet.com.