Ceremony takes place at Farmington Indian Center

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FARMINGTON — Three veterans were honored Friday for their military service by a national organization that presents hand-stitched quilts that carry messages of comfort and healing.

The quilts were from the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that awards the coverings sewn by volunteers to living service members and veterans.

Navy veterans Steven Harrison Sr., a Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle resident, and Harold Lope, a Crownpoint resident, received quilts during a presentation at the Farmington Indian Center.

A third quilt was presented to Howard Vigil, an 86-year-old Army veteran from Dulce, in a separate presentation.

Flagstaff resident Marsha Monestersky has been an Arizona chapter member of the organization since 2016.

"These quilts are an expression of gratitude, made to thank and comfort you," Monestersky said to Harrison and Lope.

Monestersky and Etta Arviso, who organized Friday's presentation, draped a red, white and blue quilt around Harrison's shoulders.

Harrison was 22 years old when he enlisted in the Navy in 1944.

He served on the USS Texas and participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The 96-year-old told the audience he remembers Iwo Jima had several caves, where Japanese troops hid during the battle.

"Uncle Sam wanted some good men to win the war, so I did," Harrison said.

Arlene Johnson, Harrison's daughter, said in 2012, her father traveled to LaPorte, Texas, to see the USS Texas for the first time since his military service ended in 1946.

Since then, he has visited the battleship three more times, including attending its centennial anniversary in 2014.

Harrison wore a baseball cap with the USS Texas embroidered on it. Around his neck hung a beaded medallion with the Navy emblem.

Lope, 84, served in the Navy from 1955 to 1957 then worked for the Navajo Police Department for seven years after being discharged from military service.

His career includes serving as director of the tribe's community health representatives program, where he advocated for ambulance services on the reservation.

He attended the presentation with his wife, Orlinda R. Lope.

Harold Lope looked at his certificate from Quilts of Valor then checked out his quilt, which had a turquoise border and consisted of yellow, green and white fabric.

"Ahéhee'," Lope said in the Navajo language.

"We hear a lot about service men but a lot of times, we overlook them. They need help, they need assistance," he said later in English.

Arviso was also recognized with a certificate from the organization for her work through the years to honor military service members.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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