The Quilt of Valor Foundation presented a handmade quilt to John Unger.
Three women wrapped a red, white and blue handmade quilt around veteran John Unger. Sitting in a chair, he looked up at them and admired the detailed fabric and binding, which was created by the Palm Coast chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
Applause from family and friends filled the room at the Tuscan Gardens of Palm Coast assisted-living facility during the quilt presentation on Friday, Jan. 11. Foundation members presented the quilt to Unger, 98, to honor his 20 years of service in the U.S. military in World War II and Korean War.
“This is your quilt of valor, Mr. Unger,” Kelly Wise-Chapman said. “We want to thank you for your service, for your dedication. … Part of the Quilts of Valor is to make sure that the quilt is wrapped with all of the honor and love and thanks that we can afford.”
Before the presentation, guests learned about John Unger’s dedication to serve and his undying love for Alice, whom he was married to for 74 years.
Born in Austria in 1920, John Unger immigrated to the U.S. at age 11. In 1939, at age 19, he enlisted and began his training as a corpsman. He was assigned to the Marines 1st Defense Battalion on Wake Island in December 1941, when the Battle of Wake Island occurred simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor.
John Unger was taken as a Prisoner of War and spent 44 months in Japanese war camps, until the end of WWII in 1945.
“Everyone went home by plane, but I had to go by ship because I had developed appendicitis,” Unger said. “I was in American hands and an American doctor operated on me aboard ship.”
He didn’t stop serving though. He became Chief Hospital Corpsman and, in the Korean War, he was put to work on a medical ship.
While serving, he and his wife wrote letters back and forth, which were later to be discovered in a box in the attic by his son Brian Unger. These almost 600 pages of handwritten letters became the foundation of first-person experiences in a soon-to-be-released book entitled “The Last Corpsman” by Juan Carlos Marcos.
“So, I guess there’s no doubt of the influence of getting me to become an officer of Marines for 10 years,” Brian Unger said.
With his 100th birthday approaching, John Unger has one wish in mind: to go back to the Pacific island of Samoa, where his sweet Alice was born.
“I’m still here, so no complaints,” he said.
Those interested in nominating a veteran for a Quilt of Valor can visit http://qovf.org/.