Four UT veterans—two students, a campus librarian, and the UT police chief—were surprised November 17 with one of the warmest honors veterans can receive: a handcrafted quilt from the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
The presentations were made during the grand opening celebration for UT’s new Veterans Resource Center.
The recipients are:
- Brent Bennae of Clarksville, Tennessee, a senior in animal science, who wants to be a veterinarian. He served in the Army and Marine Corps for a combined 10 years, during which he conducted more than 500 security patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s been active with Vol Fighters, a student veterans organization.
- Brandon Pendergrass of Ten Mile, Tennessee, a senior studying psychology who wants to work with veterans as a mental health professional. He served in the US Marine Corps from 2010 to 2013 as an infantryman, specializing as a rifleman and machine gunner. He was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where he was injured in combat by an improvised explosive device. He received a Purple Heart. At UT, he has served as president of the Vol Fighters.
- Ingrid Ruffin, student success librarian for First-Year Programs. She served in the US Air Force from 1999 to 2005 and in the Air Force Reserves from 2007 to 2010. She attended technical school at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi and was trained as a surveillance technician. She was stationed in South Carolina, Iceland, and Germany, and served in Iraq. After leaving the service, she used the GI Bill to complete her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has worked at UT since 2012.
- Troy Lane, associate vice chancellor for public safety and chief of the UT Police Department. He served four years with the US Army as a military police team leader and served in Operation Desert Storm. After leaving the military in 1992, he served as assistant director of the Kansas State University Police Department and chief of police at the University of Wyoming. He has been at UT since 2012.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation has more than 8,000 volunteers across the country who handcraft quilts to “cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing.” To date, more than 176,000 quilts have been presented.
The quilts were presented by former Tennessee Quilts of Valor coordinator Dennis Taylor and his wife, Doyleen Taylor. The Taylors run a Quilts of Valor chapter in North Knoxville, one of 26 chapters in the state. Since 2011, the Taylors and their team of 42 registered volunteers have created about 225 quilts per year to give to local veterans.
Dennis Taylor handed out the quilts, wrapping each around the recipient’s shoulders.
He urged them to use the quilts, not to hang them up on display or store them away. He said the quilts are made to last 100 years and carry a “lifetime guarantee,” which means they’ll be replaced if they wear out.
Taylor commended the university for creating a Veterans Resource Center as a place for student veterans to get to know each other and support each other.
“No one understands a veteran’s life better than another veteran,” he said.
Referring to the 500-plus student veterans at UT, Taylor said, “We wish we had 500 quilts so we could give one to them all.”
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)