Patchwork Quilt Salutes Fallen U.S. Military Women
(September 22, 2008)
(Left to right) Donna J. Birtwistle, Mavis Olsen,
Marlene Wallace and Penny Eakin stand before their
patchwork quilt at the Women in Military Service for
America Memorial, Sept. 17, 2008. The quilt honors
military women who've died during the global war on
Defense Dept. photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2008
A red, white and blue patchwork
quilt commemorating the 113 U.S. military women who've died during the global
war on terrorism was unveiled for public view at the Women in Military Service
for America Memorial today.
The hand-sewn quilt
features a stars-and-stripes motif that displays the names of the fallen within
the stripes. It was crafted by 10 women from several small communities in the
Pacific Northwest, with additional support provided by another 16 women, also
from Oregon or the state of Washington.
Fourteen of these women traveled to Arlington National
Cemetery to attend the unveiling ceremony held inside the women's memorial. The
quilt will be displayed inside the memorial until January or so, when it will be
taken for display at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.
Retired Army Staff Sgt. Donna J. Birtwistle, a former military
nurse from Moro, Ore., said she began thinking of making the quilt this spring
after attending a military veterans group meeting. Then, she said, her community
was saddened by the loss of Army Cpl. Jessica A. Ellis, who died in Iraq on May
11. Ellis was from Bend, Ore., about 135 miles south of Moro. |
Birtwistle, who sews, found a sponsor to provide the quilted material and
solicited volunteers from across the area to cut and sew the cloth. Work began
June 10 and the quilt was completed about a month later. Birtwistle eventually
contacted the women's memorial to see if the quilt could be displayed there.
The colorful quilt “is all hand-made,” Birtwistle said proudly. It's important
to honor military women who've fallen in conflict, she said, because they, too,
serve in harm's way alongside their male counterparts.
“They are just as tough and just as hardy as the men are,” Birtwistle said of
Mary Anne Macnab from Wasco, Ore., said the quilt also was created to comfort
grieving families and “to honor these women who've made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Other women involved in the quilting project who attended the ceremony included
Mary Lou Massie and Marlene Wallace of Wasco; Sharon Simantel, Mavis Olsen,
Sheila Weber and Marylea Sanders of Moro; Elizabeth Hazel, Camille Hurd and
Linda Simkus of Goldendale, Wash.; Penny Eakin of Grass Valley, Ore.; and Julie
Cordahl of Cle Elum, Wash.
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, president of the Women's Memorial
Foundation, thanked the women for the quilt and for their efforts on behalf of
“We are just grateful that your towns had the foresight to let all of you come
who have worked on this quilt, so that you could be here and see it go on
display here,” Vaught told the women.
Vaught then introduced Army Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, a long-time supporter of
the women's memorial. Sutton is the director of the Defense Center of Excellence
for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Sutton saluted the quilters' efforts to honor fallen military women.
“Let us renew our dedication to making their sacrifices count,” Sutton said. “We
shall always remember.”
By Gerry J.
American Forces Press Service
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