Southerland receives Quilt of Valor

Retired Col. Charles Southerland holds his Quilt of Valor he received Saturday at his farm in Whitesburg. Southerland served 37½ years in the U.S. Army, including second in command of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Retired Col. Charles Southerland received one of the highest honors at his Whitesburg farm Saturday afternoon.

Southerland received a Quilt of Valor from the Lakeway Area QOV organization. Southerland was nominated for a quilt by his wife, Teresa.

“To me, this quilt represents a big part of the 10 Tennesseans who died in Iraq,” he said. “Those soldiers are brothers who didn’t come back. I was honored to be a recipient of the quilt, but to me it represents every soldier and especially those who did not come back.”

Southerland spent 37½ years in the U.S. Army, going to Iraq in 2004 and 2005 as the adjutant, or second in command, of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment while they were deployed there during Operation Iraqi Freedom III. The 278th had the fewest amount of soldiers lost out of all of the deployments to Iraq with only nine not making it back.

“I spent more than two years when we were deployed for the Iraq War. It was an interesting time,” Southerland said.

When the Iraq veterans were coming home, they were treated much differently by Americans than when troops from Vietnam came home in the 1970s.

“Seeing how all of the Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home, I am proud of how we were supported, how we were received whenever we came home and everything that everyone has done, and just like this, has continued to do,” he said.

The quilts came about due to veterans of the Iraq War. In 2003, the first quilt was given to an American soldier who fought in Iraq.

“That adds even more significance to this quilt,” Southerland said. “It came from a time because he was there right before I was. To receive it now, it has special meaning.”

To be thanked for his service holds further special significance to Southerland.

“It means a lot. There have been a lot of people who have told me that and it brightens your day,” he said. “Most Americans respect the military, but you only hear about the protesters in the news. It’s easy to complain, but it takes some special people, such as these ladies, to step out and show their appreciation, to build someone up and make them stronger.”

Southerland grew up not far from where his farm is, just across the mountain in Greene County.

“I spent my life basically in Greene and Hamblen counties,” he said. “I was born and raised in this neck of the woods.”

Southerland recalled that the “lost” State of Franklin came about from Greene County and cut through part of the Lakeway Area.

“We’re all the same, we’re all Americans, Tennesseans and more importantly, East Tennesseans,” he said. “I love this area. It’s interesting about all of the history that is in this area.”

About Quilts of Valor

Kathleen Van Orsdel of Quilts of Valor has a mission. To honor as many veterans as possible with a quilt of valor.

This year, however, has not been a typical year for her Lakeway Area sewing group.

“This year, we have done 102 quilts,” Van Orsdel said. “We did 254 quilts last year, but we’re just now getting started due to COVID-19. We have done a number of hospice quilts and have a working relationship with three hospices in the Lakeway Area. We’re working as we can.”

Van Orsdel treats all nominations for Quilts of Valor the same, whether the nominee is a private or a five-star general.

“A veteran is a veteran,” she said. “They’re all veterans and they’re getting a quilt if I can possibly do it.”

Van Orsdel discussed two ways a veteran can be nominated for a quilt.

“They can go to and on the home page click on the link about nominating a veteran, then it goes to headquarters, then the state then the local group.”

Another way is to give Van Orsdel the information. Like the online nomination, all nominees will be placed in a queue.

The normal order of nomination go soldiers from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and so on.

For more information, contact Van Orsdel at 865-674-8185.