By Lt. Col. Rodney Furr, 439th Airlift Wing
/ Published January 20, 2020
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ian C. Duffin, left, and Senior Airman Jon R. Wegrzynek, right, from the 337th Airlift Squadron, flank retired U.S. Army/U.S. Air Force Colonel Edwin J. Malikowski, Nov. 29, 2019, in Chicopee, Massachusetts. The two Westover Airmen presented Malikowski with a Quilt of Valor and certificate on his 100th birthday.
Though the mission of the U. S. Air Force is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace, Airmen also are honor bound to preserve the heritage of those who served before them. Two Westover Airmen had such an opportunity Nov. 29, 2019 when they paid tribute to a local retired officer on his 100th birthday.
Senior Airman Ian C. Duffin and Senior Airman Jon R. Wegrzynek, from the 337th Airlift Squadron, presented a Quilt of Valor, a wooden flag and a certificate to retired U.S. Army/U.S. Air Force Colonel Edwin J. Malikowski at his home in Chicopee.
The Quilts of Valor (QoVF) Foundation, founded in 2003, is comprised of volunteers across the nation who sew and present patriotic quilts to service members and veterans in order to comfort, heal, and thank them.
Malikowski’s neighbor Theresa Golonka nominated him for recognition from QoVF, and a group in Rancho Bernardo, California, sent a quilt and the other items to be presented. She also reached out to Chicopee Veteran’s Services and Master Sgt. Nicola Marler, the 439th Airlift Wing Honor Guard NCO in charge to request assistance with the presentation. Duffin and Wegrzynek, who are members of Westover’s Honor Guard, were selected by Marler for the event.
“Both of those Airmen are sharp, engaged, and professional,” Marler said. “I knew they would personally and professionally benefit from exposure to a wonderful and worldly experienced veteran such as Col. Malikowski.
Since the event was a surprise for the honoree, Duffin and Wegrzynek met Golonka and her husband John at their house prior to traveling as a group to Malikowski’s residence.
“The presentation lasted nearly 35 minutes and the Airmen were phenomenal!” Golonka said. “They fold(ed) and present(ed) the quilt, the wooden flag and the certificate to the colonel with a salute after each presentation. He lit up when he saw the Airmen, and the(y) were gracious, accommodating and honored to be present.”
Immediately following the presentation, Malikowski sat with the Airmen and enjoyed conversation along with a slice of his birthday cake.
Malikowski served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, the U.S. Army, the Army Reserve, the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and the U.S. Air Force. His decorations include the Expert Infantry Badge, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star with “V” device and oak leaf cluster, and the Silver Star.