ARLINGTON — The employees of an Arlington manufacturing and construction company were able to pass on some tangible tokens of their concern and regard to returning veterans recently.
Charlie LaNasa, president of Bestworth-Rommel in Arlington, recalled how one of his employees, Cheryl Thomas, thanked him for her Christmas bonus during a chat about a month ago.
“When she asked if I wanted to know what she spent it on, I said, ‘Of course,’” said LaNasa, who explained that Thomas had purchased both a quilting machine and enough quilting materials to make quilts for two “Wounded Warriors.” “She had only one problem which was that she didn’t know any “Wounded Warriors,” so she asked if I did. By coincidence, my great-niece, Jessica Forrest, is marrying a young man who was wounded while serving in Afghanistan.”
Forrest’s fiancé, Tom Akin, was discharged from the 787th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion of the U.S. Army on Saturday, March 1, after his vehicle was blown up and he suffered significant enough damage to his right leg that it had to be replaced with a prosthesis, and he had to be retired from the Army.
“His leg was mangled, and they tried to save it, but without success,” LaNasa said. “The prosthesis they gave him is just fantastic. He can hit golf balls, and even run, while wearing it.”
Thomas wound up spending around a hundred hours each making quits for both Akin and one of his fellow soldiers, John Wood of the 319th EOD.
“These quilts are beautifully done and quite large, sufficient to be a full bedspread,” LaNasa said. “Because Tom was leaving Fort Lewis for his home in California that Saturday, I wanted to get together with him and Jessica before then, which is how we wound up having dinner at my home in Edmonds that Thursday.”
LaNasa admitted that his original plan for Thursday, Feb. 27, was to invite Akin to his business in Arlington, where Akin’s fellow veterans among LaNasa’s employees would give the young outgoing soldier a tour of the facility, before Thomas handed off her quilts to him personally.
“Unfortunately, Cheryl’s husband had to get up early the next day, so she couldn’t even make it to dinner that night,” said LaNasa, who added that Akin will deliver Wood’s quilt to him.
LaNasa noted the generation gap between himself and Akin with regard to how they see America’s treatment of its troops.
“Tom is a good sport and the real deal, but I don’t think he understands how bad a job we did of looking after our veterans during Vietnam,” LaNasa said. “To him, he was just doing his job and volunteering, but those of us who remember are not going to make the same mistake that so many made back then.”