Guest Post by Carrie Hagen
SGT-TN Army National Guard
This is my Quilt of Valor.
There are many like it, but this one is mine. My Quilt is my gift. It represents my service life. I will appreciate it, as it was made in appreciation of me. My Quilt, without being made with love and support, would be meaningless. Without love and support, my service is meaningless. I must keep my Quilt always. I must respect those who show respect to me. I must remember my time of service along with those who remembered me. I will… My Quilt and I know that what counts in serving our country is not the places we’ve gone, the things we’ve done, or the battles we’ve fought.
We know standing for those in need makes it count. For them, we will stand… My Quilt of Valor is proud, as am I, because it reflects kindness found in American life. Thus, I will love it as a brother. I will love its wearing, its tearing, its patterns, its threads, its comfort, its true meaning, and its creators.
I will keep my Quilt dear and close, even as I am held dear and close. We will become part of each other. We will… Before God, I thank my supporters. My Quilt and the military are symbols of the services dedicated to our country. We are the pride of the people who made us. We will hold the memories of our military service life.
So be it, until we lay to rest and there is no enemy, but peace!
by Janet Seahorn
At first it appeared to be an ordinary Thursday evening in mid-February. The soldiers of battles-past gathered at the new Fort Collins Vet Center for their weekly group meeting with the professional VA Staff.
They draw together to heal wounds that occurred long ago in a land far from home. Wounds acquired from serving in Vietnam – a war where few were honored for their personal sacrifice for their country. The veterans meet to try and understand why their scars linger and are still so painful after so many years. And they meet to try and find a sense of recognition of what each has experienced in life – both past and present.
It was on this night that several Fort Collins community members presented a “Quilt of Valor” to those warriors who gave much and were given little in return. Through their generous donations, the community was able to acquire a special hand-made quilt for the presentation.
The quilt was one small way of saying “Thank you for your service and sacrifice”. And, maybe, the quilt would become a symbol of comfort, hope, and honor. This particular comforter was carefully crafted by Donna Roche and the Quilters of Rogers, Arkansas. Her group has assembled and mailed over 700 similar quilts to wounded warriors in hospitals in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany and the United States. Ms. Roche and her group explain the Quilt of Valor in this manner:
“The Quilt of Valor is our wounded warrior award for service, sacrifice and valor in the line of duty. It is our way of saying “Thank you for your service – you have not been forgotten.” Many caring souls are involved in making the quilts; from contributing quilt blocks, finishing the tops, and integrating each section into the final product. Each special quilt receives a “Quilt of Valor” label thanking the injured warrior for his/her dedication and sacrifice. The label contains the name of those involved in the making of each caring blanket.”
The Quilt of Valor is in fact a symbol of renewal. It transforms the hands of war’s destruction through the caring quilter’s fingers of each blanket’s construction. It shifts the heart from the darkness of combat to the light of a kinder future. And, hopefully it moves the experiences of combat trauma to a quieter sense of peace.
On this Thursday evening, warriors who were never honored finally have their Quilt of Valor. The gratitude in their teary eyes, said it all. Perhaps, after all these years, others do care. Perhaps, there is now a sense of acknowledgement of what these warriors gave without hesitation. You see, it is never too late to say thank you, and the heart is never too old to feel the warmth of such a genuine gesture.
Wednesday was Veteran’s Day. A twenty-four hour period where Americans are supposed to stop at some time during those hours to honor and reflect on the sacfrices made by our veterans so that others can live in a free and democratic country. Truly, I don’t know how many Americans did this… With the busyness of daily life, I didn’t see much evidence that many knew the honorary day existed. Yet, across the nation there many observances.
In our home we did something uniquely special. Something we have never done before, nor will we do again. The event was a culmination of several months of planning.
It included the thoughtfulness and generosity of family members and close friends, along with the sewing fingers of the Caring Quilters of “The Rabbit’s Lair” in Rogers, AR. Contributers are Betty Hayes, Marguerite Steiner, Nancy White and Patty Wilhelm and machine quilted by Donna Roche. All are dedicated to making a difference with the “Quilts of Valor”.
It was a secret for Tony, which took a great deal of evasive action and patience to execute. In honor of all vets, we took this day to symbolize such respect by paying tribute to one. Inviting several neighbors to share the evening, we ate a light dinner, then watched the touching movie, Taking Chance, the true story of a twenty-year old Marine who died in Iraq. The movie chronicled the journey of Chance Phelps from Iraq to his family burial place in Dubois, Wyoming. http://www.hbo.com/films/takingchance/
One member this evening, a former marine who flew helicopters in Vietnam, shared how, while he was waiting for his overseas assignment, was given the duty of informing two families of their loved ones’ death. It was information he had never shared with any of us before and we could tell that the memory still remained with him.
At the very end of the evening, we surprised Tony with his own Quilt of Valor. Needless to say, he was speechless and quite humbled. You see, he understood that this distinctive comforter of courage was not just for him, but for every wounded warrior from every war past and present. So Thank You every veteran for your sacrifice and service. We hold you warmly in our hearts and minds, not just on November 11, but every day of every year.
“QUILTS OF VALOR PROJECT”
During the Purple Heart National Convention we passed a table of women busily sewing and constructing several incredibly beautiful red, white, and blue patriotic quilts. Turns out, these ladies have made and sent to military hospitals throughout the United States and overseas over 415 quilts. The national Quilts of Valor Organization has provided over 17,000 quilts. Frankly, I was stunned by this number given the time, money, and effort that goes into making a hand sewn quilt. Wow!
For that reason, I thought our readers might find it interesting to know some of the facts regarding such a worthy organization. (PS – they greatly need and accept donations to help defray the personal cost and postage for each quilt and quilter). The following information is taken from a brochure given to me by Donna Roche, the Arkansas QOV Coordinator (e-mail email@example.com)
The Quilts of Valor is our “Purple Heart Award” for service, sacrifice and valor of combat wounded soldiers. It is our way of saying “Thank You for your service, you have not been forgotten.” Numerous people are involved in making the quilts, from contributing quilt blocks, finishing the tops, and then quilting them. Each quilt receives a “Quilt of Valor” label thanking the injured warrior for their dedication and sacrifice. The label contains the name of the maker and the quilter. Sometimes the soldier will send a letter of thanks like the one below:
“My QOV not only keeps me warm when I am cold, it keeps my heart warm too. I’m twenty-four, a husband and father. This may seem childish, but when I get scared with memories of war, I curl up in the quilts and everything goes away. It makes me and the hundreds of wounded I’ve seen feel better knowing there are people in the States that care about us and what we do.”
The Cost of each quilt:
Quilt top $55
Quilt Backing $40
Binding & Notions $10
Pillowcase $ 5
Shipping w/Insurance $10
Total for making a QOV $135
The following poem is dedicated to these amazing women and their loving selfless efforts.
BLANKET OF HOPE
Blanket of Hope
Covers my wounds,
Keeping me safe
In this far from home room.
Blanket of Hope
Surrounding my heart,
Keeping me sane
When I’m falling apart.
Blanket of Hope
Sewn by love’s hands,
With patience and kindness
Blanket of Hope
As tears fill my eyes
Brings me closer to home
When morning arrives.
Blanket of Hope
With deep gratitude
My words can’t express
A way to thank you.
Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
In honor of the Quilts of Valor Organization
Donations are greatly needed and accepted to help continue this amazing, healing mission.
or Donna Roche, firstname.lastname@example.org