Ken Good already knows where he’s going to put his new fleece blanket.
Decorated with the U.S. Army logo, Good says he’ll put the over the back of his couch, making it the first thing you see when you enter his home.
Good, 75, of Lancaster Township, received the blanket from the new nonprofit Blankets of Honor on Saturday at the monthly veteran’s breakfast at Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant in Ronks.
The blanket was a surprise for Good, who was nominated to receive it by a fellow veteran. Good served in Vietnam, where he earned a Purple Heart after he stepped on a landmine while running to help soldiers from a different platoon. He still has his foot — luckily. He said the Army had recently issued him new boots with metal in the sole that protected his foot, though he still has shrapnel in his leg to this day.
Blankets of Honor, which started giving blankets to veterans in early 2020, is a project of the Marietta American Legion Post 466. It became its own standalone nonprofit earlier this month.
Any veteran can be nominated for a blanket, which is presented at a special ceremony. So far, the group has honored more than 40 local veterans with blankets in Lancaster and surrounding counties.
The ceremonies include a prayer and a speech from one of the organizers. Like the fabric woven into a blanket, veterans enjoy a bond that cannot be broken, its chief operating officer Manny Acuna, a U.S. Marine Corps. veteran, said during the ceremony where Good received his blanket.
“I’m here to tell you you are truly not forgotten,” Acuna said, as the nonprofit’s volunteers wrapped Good in the blanket.
The volunteers went from the breakfast at the Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant, to another veteran’s home in Gap, said Dave Chobanoff, the chief marketing officer for the nonprofit.
“Everyone says ‘never forgotten,’ but we’re taking it to heart and we’re proving it by visiting random veterans, like someone’s grandfather, friend or someone else’s family member — we just show up with sometimes three people, sometimes with a whole bunch of motorcycles,” Chobanoff said.
Good, one of the 2.7 million Americans who served in Vietnam, said he recognizes that people are trying to make up for the way veterans were treated when they came home from Southeast Asia.
“All these years, we weren’t treated very well,” Good said. “You just serve your country and you don’t expect anything in return. [The blanket] was a very high honor.”
These blankets have had an impact on their recipients across the board, breaking down the “rough exteriors” that many veterans present to the world, Chobanoff said.
“The Vietnam veterans, they get the bad reputation of their history and who they are, the rough exterior,” Chobanoff added. “There’s been a lot of surprise when after we’ve presented a blanket, family members reach out and say, ‘My dad can’t stop talking about that blanket.’”
David Rynier, a 10-year Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, received a blanket from the nonprofit in February 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a halt in the monthly breakfasts at Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant.
Rynier’s blanket now keeps the blanket on his bed; his wife Mary joked that he complains when it’s not there.
“It’s hard to put in words. It’s meant a lot,” Rynier said. “It’s really helped me with my PTSD.”
Chobanoff, who is not a veteran himself but has multiple family members in the service, emphasized that any veteran is eligible to receive a blanket. The organization will also accept nominations for influential veteran supporters and Gold Star families who lost a loved one serving during armed conflict.
“We often have veterans who say, ‘I’m not a combat vet,’ they don’t think they matter as much,” Chobanoff said. “We don’t care, we don’t care what you did. You got a [military service record], you did more than me for one thing. We’re here to honor you, and in times like these, it’s probably even more important to show that.”
Blankets of Honor is funded by community donations. For more information about the organization or to nominate a veteran, go to www.blanketsofhonor.org.