A long-time Columbia City local and Korean War veteran was recently honored with a Quilt of Valor for his four years of dedicated service in the United States Navy.
Raymond Edwards, 88, enlisted in the Navy in January of 1951 in Portland, at just 19-years-old. He completed boot camp in San
Diego and then came home to marry his high school sweetheart, Jannette. However, just days after his wedding, he was off to California to participate in the recommissioning of the destroyer U.S.S. Halsey Powell.
According to Edwards’ grandson, Brandon Sundeen of the Columbia County Museum and Historical Association, the Halsey Powell had been in commission during WWII and was hit by a Japanese kamikaze plane. The Navy saw increased demands as a result of the Korean War and the ship was recommissioned on April 27, 1951 before shipping overseas to join Task Force 77 – the aircraft battle/strike force of the United States Seventh Fleet.
Edwards, a Boatswain Mate, spent three tours of duties overseas on the Halsey Powell – most of it spent being sent off to the Korean coast to participate in shore bombardments and screening duties where the ship earned two battle stars. The destroyer, acting as plane guard and screening ship, allowed the carrier planes to keep pressure on the Communist lines and shore installations. The Halsey Powell took part in bombardments of Suwon Dam, Wonsan, Hungnam and other areas.
The Halsey Powell, with Edwards aboard, left for her second tour in Korea in October 1952 and spent the next seven months taking part in shore bombardment and screening duties.
In January of 1953, the crew of the Halsey Powell rescued ten airmen who had been shot down and were in enemy waters.
Edwards was discharged in November 1954, 65 years ago this fall, after nearly four years of service. Sundeen said his grandfather missed many important family milestones during his service, including time with his new wife whom he wrote to nearly every day, the birth of his firstborn son, and the death of his father.
Edwards was awarded his Quilt of Valor in the lobby of Avamere in St. Helens in the presence of residents and 24 family members that included four generations. The quilt, stitched in red, white and blue to form the “Three Tours” pattern, was presented to Edwards by Maureen Orr Eldred, her husband Robert Eldred, and Polly Sprague.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation began in 2003, and are not just any quilts. Inspired by founder Catherine Roberts’ dream of seeing a despairing soldier comforted by a quilt which shifted his demeanor to one of hope and wellbeing, the first one was awarded in November 2003 to a young Minnesota soldier who had lost his leg in Iraq.
“The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor,” the foundation’s website states, and since their inception, they have given out over 230,000 quilts in all 50 states.
Sundeen said he nominated his grandfather after he learned about the organization last year through an article that recounted a similar ceremony. He said he did some research and felt like it was a great organization doing a great thing for our veterans.
“I’ve always enjoyed learning about my grandpa’s military service and have asked him many questions over the years,” Sundeen said. “It’s nice to see veterans honored at their funeral service, but I wanted him to receive some recognition while he’s still here with us, and to let him know that his family and community appreciate his service.”