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‘You helped make my day’: Veterans surprised with a special gift in Lancaster County

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — A veteran from Lancaster County is trying to say thank you to other veterans who didn’t receive the best welcome when they c...

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — A veteran from Lancaster County is trying to say thank you to other veterans who didn’t receive the best welcome when they came home from war.

James Waltz is surprising the veterans with special gift, and it’s bringing comfort in more ways than one.

James waltz may not be Santa Clause, but he is delivering some special presents in time for the big holiday.

Christmas Eve morning, Waltz made a visit to three veterans’ homes with a blanket designed to be be a symbol of their service to the country.

Waltz also asks the veterans about their service before saying a prayer with them.

“Let me ask you a question when you came home from Vietnam what was that experience like?” asked Waltz.

“I don’t like talking about it. You want rotten tomatoes and rotten eggs and called baby killer and everything else? I wasn’t welcomed home,” explained William Heilinger, a marine veteran from Lancaster County.

Heilinger served in Vietnam. Over at Wayne Bretz’ house, it’s a similar answer. The United States Marine veteran also spent 19 months stationed in Vietnam. He agreed: The welcome home wasn’t so great.

“It was hostile stuff,” said Bretz.

It’s part of the reason why Waltz says he delivers the blankets.

“People don’t understand the sacrifice that was made,” said Waltz.

“I don’t know how to describe it right now. Overwhelmed. Never had anything like that,” responded Bretz when asked about his new blanket.

Waltz says he also knows what it can be like to come home after serving. The army combat veteran spent years overseas in Iraq. Even though he delivers the blankets, Waltz says he never takes the credit. He says the blankets are paid for by people who support what he’s doing.

“I never say it’s from me. It’s from the people in our community. It just, well, you saw today. It changes them. It does something,” added Waltz.

Every vet said just how much the blanket means.

“Well, I kind of needed a pick me up today, and this just did it… Thank you for coming out. You really helped make my day, the smile on my face,” said Jerome Brown, a navy veteran.

If anyone would like to sponsor a flag blanket, visit FlagBlankets.org.