Bradshaw Recipient of American Hero Quilt

Thursday, January 28, 2016
Bradshaw with Diana Arikan.(courtesy photo)

With meticulous stitches, the Bias Bunch Quilters of Mountain Home (Baxter County) designed and crafted a full-size American hero quilt in patriotic motif and color scheme. The group presented Rector's Jon Bradshaw with their first American Hero presentation quilt. Connected in "it's a small world" fashion, the quilters chose Bradshaw because of his exemplary service and because one of their members, Diana Arikan, knew his story.

Bradshaw represents the best of the American soldier's spirit as he served his country during the Vietnam War and continues to serve his fellow man through his work with Paragould-based Families, Inc.

Bradshaw's early days in Clay County sowed in him a love for the land, the area, and home. Living in the Crockett community in central Clay County until his family moved to St. Louis, Jon acknowledges deep roots in the area. Family members he fondly remembers include Bill Manning and Cecil Bookout. Bessy Bookout Manning was his grandmother.

In 1968, Jon graduated high school in St. Louis and enlisted in the United States Army, taking his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood Army Base located in the Missouri Ozarks. From there, he was stationed at Ft. Gordon, Ga., for Infantry School and then at Ft. Benning, Ga., for Special Forces Jump School.

Deployed to Vietnam, he rose in the ranks to squad leader in the 173rd Airborn Brigade, his infantry unit being separate in their training and expertise. Stationed primarily in the Binh Dinh coastal province located in north central South Vietnam, mostly in the AnDo Valley, his unit's mission was two fold. The region was a rice producing, sustenance providing strategic area, so the first goal employed a search and destroy strategy, aimed at ridding the area of the enemy and anything that could provide support for them. The mission also contained a civil affairs goal, encouraging and persuading the hearts and minds of the indigenous people to take the side of American interest in removing the Viet Cong and communist sympathizers from the region.

It was during one of the combat missions that Bradshaw was wounded. His squad, charged with clearing an enemy bunker, took return fire. As the enemy retreated, they hurled various fragment grenades.

"I saw it and should have had time to take cover," he said. "Those grenades, made with sub-standard parts and riggings, exploded at random intervals. This one exploded before I had any chance and I took multiple fragments to my chest, shoulder and legs. The shoulder area wounds were significant enough to result in paralysis to my right arm."

Bradshaw received his honorable medical discharge from the United States Army in January of 1971.

Returning to St. Louis for approximately nine months, he felt a pull toward Rector, a call home that he answered. In Rector by choice, Bradshaw and wife Lori enjoy the peace and slow, easy pace from their home at Hargrave Corner.

"I love the land and life and especially the people who are beyond friendly," he said. "They are generous and eager to help each other in any way they can. That's rare to see, and we've loved this town as our home for 22 years."

Bradshaw has three sisters living in St. Louis and a brother in Heber Springs with whom he shares a love for fishing. In fact, Jon considers himself "still quite competitive," sharing how he participates in bass tournaments. He fishes all around the area and tells of an especially good day in Florida's Lake Orange where he reeled in a 9 pound and a 10 pound bass on the same day.

"The fishermen in Florida are used to 12 pound or larger fish, so they didn't think much of it," he smiled recounting the story.

Along with fishing buddies Sherland Hamilton and Ty Arikan, retired engineer for the U.S. Fish and Game Commission, Bradshaw enjoys spending time engaged in the hobby. Arikan's story and Bradshaw's story intersect through the Crocketts, Hamiltons and George Jernigan family. Arikan arrived in the United States from Turkey with $5 in his pocket and 18 years under his belt. He became the unofficial adopted son of this Rector extended family, graduating from the University of Arkansas with George Jernigan. It is Arikan's wife, Diana, U.S. State Department retiree, who is a master seamstress in the Mountain Home Quilters organization.

A natural friendship among these individuals developed. Diane had traveled extensively in her diplomatic associations, working throughout Europe and Africa for the cause of peace. Striving to serve beyond self, working for a broader purpose, she and Bradshaw share that common ethic.

"I believe I've made a difference through my career in saving kids from dangerous situations, many times being able to improve their home environments," he said.

With a degree in social sciences and education from Arkansas State University, his years with the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Families, Inc., have provided opportunities to link arms with others to improve life and combat some of society's ills.

"War is an ugly and cruel thing," he reflects. "Our small company, however, came to value the lives of the brothers to our left and right, perhaps more than our own."

Bradshaw suggests that philosophy transcends wartime and has planted within him an unending quest to offer assistance to the most vulnerable in society.

His example has been a model for the career path chosen by his daughter, Brittany Bradshaw. A junior at ASU, Brittany has provided one of Bradshaw's greatest pleasures and he has delighted in watching her grow into a young woman.

Bradshaw continues as an independent contractor with Families, Inc., working three days a week with a managerial caseload and training newcomers to the profession.

In defining a true American hero, one needs to look no further than to neighbor Jon Bradshaw. Diana Arikan's quilter friends recognized in him what America should see in all who take up arms in defense of freedom. The quilters chose to honor Bradshaw as a Vietnam veteran, a patriot of America, and a man among men, one who sees and values the worth of every life, a man of tolerance with a desire to make his part of the world a place of peace.

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