GAYLORD — A handful of area veterans were recently presented with Quilts of Valor to thank them for their service.
The first of which was Joshua Churchill who grew up in the Gaylord area and enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 2002 while a junior at Gaylord High School. He spent 360 days in the delayed entry program followed by boot camp at Paris Island, North Carolina. Combat training at Camp Lejeune followed. He then attended military occupational school for heating and cooling in Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. After training, his assigned unit was the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force headquartered at Camp Pendleton, California.
Less than 30 days into his first duty station, he was deployed for his first tour of duty to Camp Fallujah, Iraq from January until December 2004. His second twelve-month tour saw him returning to Camp Fallujah. While occupying a pump house off base, it came under fire with an IED attack where he received shrapnel but stayed behind to ensure that a junior Marine was medivacked first. Churchill remained on station for 2 days to troubleshoot and repair equipment before he was relieved.
Churchill was honorably discharged from the Marines in June 2007 with the rank of E-5 Sergeant. He received many commendations: meritorious awards for each of his ranks (E-2, E-3, E-4), a Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with “V” for Valor, good conduct medal, Combat Action ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, and 2 Sea Service Deployment ribbons.
Returning to civilian life, Churchill worked as a painter, both interior and exterior painting. He also worked with troubled youth and volunteered with many non-profit organizations. Churchill has 3 children: Kylee, Matthew, and Kal-El. He enjoys interacting with people, coaching, volunteering, playing any sport, collecting coins, canvas painting, writing, and teaching his own children and imparting wisdom and patience.
Robert Wesley Fullerton also received a quilt and was born in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and joined the Navy in 1962 during the Vietnam era. His duty stations were Akron, Ohio, Grosse Ile, Michigan, Glenview, Illinois, Seattle, Washington, and Whidbey Island, Washington.
When Fullerton was stationed at Whidbey Island, he was in charge of the parachute loft. One day a pilot had to bail out. The parachute that Fullerton packed saved the pilot’s life. The packers had to write their names on the parachute. Later, when the pilot returned the chute and equipment to the loft, he brought with him a bottle of whiskey as was the custom to say “thank you” for saving my life. The pilot gave the whiskey begrudgingly but Fullerton and his fellow Navy men enjoyed it all the same.
Fullerton received an honorable discharge in 1982 with the rank of E5 after 22 years in the Navy. He has six children all living in the Washington state area. He and his wife Linda are enjoying retirement and, as Fullerton says, “doing as little as possible." They do also enjoy traveling throughout the United States.
Becki Candela received a quilt and grew up in the state of Washington and later served in the US Army from 2005 until 2008. Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri was where she received her training. Later she was transferred to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, which she liked very much. When deployed, she was sent to Kuwait and Kirkuk, Iraq where she loaded trucks and drove many vehicles. Most of the time she drove MediVac vehicles. She was honorably discharged in 2008 with the rank of E4.
She received many commendations: the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal with Star, the Combat Action Badge, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Marksman Qualified Medal — Sharpshooter with Rifle.
After her separation from the Army, Candela and her family lived in South Carolina but then her husband Joe was transferred to Michigan. She and their three children made the trip to Northern Michigan a few years ago. Candela spends her time keeping her family happy with their son Logan, age 14, Isabella, age 10, and McKenzie, age 2. No time for hobbies now. She did, however, join the VFW Auxiliary Post 1518.
Another veteran to receive a quilt — Ty Cotton grew up in Indiana, Georgia, and Oklahoma and worked as a butcher and kitchen manager. He enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 2002 and trained at Camp Pendleton, California. He spent five years there and then was a recruiter in Petoskey for 2 more years. In 2009, he was stationed in Georgia and then back to Camp Pendleton in 2012. In 2015 he was stationed at the Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California until his discharge in 2021. His rank upon discharge was Staff Sargent with four tours in Iraq. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal, four Iraqi Campaign ribbons, Combat Action medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the President Unit Citation award, and five Sea Service awards. Cotton spent 19 years with the Marines.
After his discharge, Cotton retired and became a stay at home dad. He is married to Kayla and they have two children: Thane and Gage. For recreation, he enjoys shooting, camping and motorcycles.
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Quilt of Valor presented to area veterans