Bruce Oliver, a local military hero, recently received the famous Quilt of Valor in the Carl Vinson Veterans’ Administration Hospital in Dublin.
Oliver was a U.S. Marine who served two-and-a-half tours of duty in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969 and later served a tour in Iraq as a First Sergeant for the 118th Field Artillery Regiment in Savannah. The Quilt of Honor is the brainchild of Catherine Roberts who had a dream about a soldier lying awake at night sitting on the side of his bed alone and distressed. She could see his war demons clustered around him and dragging him down. Then she said it was like a movie and in the next scene she saw him wrapped in a quilt. His demeanor had changed from despair to one of hope. According to Roberts whose son, Nat, was deployed in Iraq, the message was clear — quilts equal healing.
Roberts initially organized a small group of volunteers to make a few quilts that morphed into a mammoth effort that created hundreds of the patriotic quilts for deserving military service men and women. By June 2020, 250,000 Quilts of Valor had been awarded.
Those who know the history of Oliver understand that he is a more than deserving recipient of that award. In 1968, Oliver had just finished his second tour of duty in Vietnam when his younger brother, Dennis, joined the Marines and became a member of the famed Marine Reconnaissance.
Oliver volunteered for a third tour of duty, so his brother would not be sent to Vietnam, but Dennis volunteered also. Three weeks after arriving in Vietnam, Dennis’ recon team was inserted behind enemy lines to provide intelligence on enemy troop movements. Unfortunately, the team found themselves in the middle of a North Vietnamese regiment, and Dennis was killed while covering the retreat of one of the team members.
In 2005, the 118 Georgia Army National Guard Field Artillery Regiment of Savannah received orders to deploy to Iraq. At 56-years-old, First Sergeant Bruce Oliver could have chosen to opt out on the deployment, but he refused. He believed that his combat experience in Vietnam would prove valuable in protecting the lives of his soldiers, so he packed up and went with them. Those who know Bruce Oliver were not surprised. There was no way he would stay behind and let his soldiers go without him.
Oliver returned from Iraq with all of his soldiers. But in 2012, he suffered a severe stroke that paralyzed his arm and leg on the left side just before his planned retirement from the Department of Corrections. Although he remained at home for several years after the stroke, he has been in the Carl Vinson Hospital since just before the COVID-19 came on the scene in 2019.
Oliver earned every thread in that quilt.