A crowd of more than 40 gathered recently at Dairy Queen on Virginia 40 West in Rocky Mount as Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton presented a Quilt of Valor to Cecil Love, a 91-year-old Korean War Purple Heart recipient. The presentation was to thank Love for his service, sacrifice and valor as a member of the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
“We want to thank you for your sacrifice and service,” Overton told Love during the ceremony held March 12. Overton shared how honored he was to be asked to make the presentation and expressed appreciation to Love and his family for their friendship.
In his humility, Love said he’s no better than anyone else.
“He thinks he doesn’t deserve it, but he does,” said Gerry, Love’s wife of 65 years. “He’s always been good to the community. It’s a great thing he is being honored.”
The Quilt of Valor presentation for Love originated about five weeks ago by Angela Talbott Shore of Rocky Mount. Shore picked up “Wrapped Up in Christmas,” a book by Janice Lynn, at the Franklin County Library. After learning about Quilts of Valor in the book, Shore found Terry Burtchell, an administrator for Quilts of Valor Foundation and shared Love’s story of service to his country.
The mission of the foundation is “to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.” Love’s quilt came from a group called Threads That Bind Quilts of Valor of Palm Coast, Florida, and was created by Kelly Wise Chapman.
After being drafted into the Army in 1950, Love served on the front line as part of the Fifth Regimented Combat Team. On Jan. 9, 1952, in below zero-degree weather while on the side of a cliff in North Korea, Love was severely wounded after being shot in both legs and unable to get up.
Recounting that gruesome day, Love said, “The good Lord came in. He was the only man that brought me out. He did it by using the medics.”
After Love was rescued, he was taken to Japan where he spent four months in the hospital. Love said he wanted to return to his “brothers” on the line, but his superiors said he was unable to make it up the cliffs and instead, Love was assigned to issue and restock supplies.
Once his service ended in 1954, Love’s arrival home made for a big celebration, especially since he had had a brother killed in World War II.
“For him to serve and come back, it was great he could do that,” said daughter Wanda Martin.
One of 12 children, Love grew up on Briar Mountain south of town. Since it was too far to go to Rocky Mount for high school, Love said he only finished seventh grade, the highest grade offered at his country school.
Upon returning home from the war, Love worked in lumber mills for about 12 years. He also worked as a timber broker and was paid a “finder’s fee” to locate buyers or sellers for timber.
Family and friends have always played an important role in Love’s life. In addition to his wife and daughter, Love has a granddaughter, Holli Martin, and a son, Wendell (Josh) Love, and daughter-in-law, Pam.
Carolyn Brown was one of Love’s many friends who attended the Quilt of Valor ceremony. She said she’s known Love her whole life. “He tells me stuff about my childhood I don’t even know,” Brown said. “I just think the world of him.”
Nearly every morning, Love can be found at Dairy Queen on Virginia 40, talking with friends and family.
“Cecil’s a big part of our DQ,” said Deborah Russell, senior vice president for Arrington Enterprises. “People come by just to see him.”
With a smile, Love said, “I always believed in making friends. I have a lot of them now.”