Quilts of Valor Offer Comfort for Wartime Emotions
(August 24, 2009)
Angie Carr and Air Force Capt. Sandra Bannan display a Quilt of Valor June 12, 2009, at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center on Dover Air Force Base, Del. The quilts have been awarded to several hundred workers at the center since late 2006.
||DOVER AIR FORCE BASE,
Del., Aug. 17, 2009 – In 2003, Catherine
Roberts, a midwife and a 25-year quilter from
Seaford, Del., wanted to give a wounded soldier
a quilt to bring him comfort during his
“We are a nation at war,” Roberts said.
“Warriors need something tangible, a physical
representation of love, support and
That simple idea drove Roberts to start the
nonprofit Quilts of Valor Foundation, chartered
in Delaware. The project, now six years strong,
has awarded tens of thousands of handmade quilts
to American troops.
“Once I got the first quilt done, I had to find
a wounded recipient,” Roberts said.
The first quilt went to a soldier at Walter Reed Army Medical
Center in Washington, D.C. A Web search put her in touch with Army Chaplain John
L. Kallerson, who “knew the power of the quilt,” Roberts said, because his wife
Connie also was a quilter.
Kallerson accepted the first quilt for a wounded soldier and “opened the doors
at Walter Reed for our Quilts of Valor,” Roberts said. |
Initially named Quilts for Soldiers, she quickly changed the name to Quilts of
Valor to embrace all branches of the armed forces. Roberts built a Web site to
connect quilters, and developed a system to find recipients at dozens of medical
facilities and put the quilts into the hands of troops.
Marrying quilting groups -- a form of face-to-face social networking in place
since before the Civil War -- with the power of the Internet, Roberts soon had a
modern, nationwide supply and distribution network for the foundation.
The foundation's Web site describes the essence of the organization: “A Quilt of
Valor is a wartime quilt, made to honor those touched by war. This foundation is
not about politics. It is about people.”
The foundation intended to award quilts to each U.S. servicemember wounded
physically or psychologically by service in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the
mission since has expanded to include all U.S. servicemembers and veterans from
all conflicts affected by war.
To accomplish the foundation's mission, Roberts reached out to the U.S. quilting
community, estimated to be as large as 27 million people, with a simple message
-- she asked them to volunteer their time to make custom quilts to award to the
Quilts were soon on their way beyond Walter Reed to every military medical
center in the United States and to several in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as
Veterans Affairs medical centers, U.S. and overseas military bases, two U.S.
military service academies and Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
The quilts also appeared aboard military transports flying troops from the
combat theater to stateside, in airport USO lounges, Veterans of Foreign Wars
and American Legion posts, churches, schools, shopping mall parking lots and
Since that first quilt, Roberts has made about 10 visits to Walter Reed where
chaplains and Red Cross members assist in awarding hundreds of quilts. A
kindergarten class from New York once travelled to Walter Reed to deliver quilts
the children helped make.
According to the foundation, to date, more than 23,000 active-duty, Reserve and
National Guard troops have received quilts, the majority for soldiers, followed
by Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guard members.
“Our servicemembers have been touched by war, and now it is time for them to be
touched by our comforting and healing wartime quilts,” Roberts said. “What makes
the Quilt of Valor stand out is that this wartime quilt says without
equivocation or hesitancy, ‘thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor
while standing in harm's way for our country.'”
Those affected by the human costs of war also receive quilts.
As Roberts continued efforts to support troops during wartime, she became aware
of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center here. She learned how the
center's workers, most from the Air Force, but with contingents from the Army,
Navy and Marine Corps, felt the impact of war due to their mission. Unit members
handle the dignified transfers of fallen servicemembers, communicate with
grieving family members and prepare the fallen for return home.
The foundation awarded quilts to center workers in December 2006, and since then
to nearly 300 people after every deployed rotation of civilians and troops.
Chaplain David Sparks has worked at the center for more than five years, with
previous tours of duty dating back to 1980. The impact of the quilts has been
“huge, just huge,” Sparks said.
“My first day and week was really hard at [the center],” Sparks said. Several
weeks after he had received his quilt and after a particularly challenging day,
something hit him. “I went home. I pulled this quilt around my shoulders. I felt
love, care. Tears came down,” he said.
“I feel that someone was thinking about me when they built this [quilt],” he
continued. “When I put this quilt around my shoulders, I feel the loving arms of
this country and the quilters who made it.”
In June, Quilts of Valor volunteers travelled over the roadways in a caravan
from California to Camp Lejeune, N.C., awarding quilts at stops along the way.
American Legion and Rolling Thunder motorcyclists accompanied them during
several legs of the trip.
The final quilts went to 1,352 Marines at the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment
at Camp Lejeune, who had just returned home after a seven-month rotation to
Roberts is intimately familiar with wartime military service. When she began
Quilts of Valor, her son was preparing to go to Iraq with an Army military
police unit. He completed a one-year deployment, and was awarded a Purple Heart
after sustaining shrapnel wounds. A daughter graduated as an ensign this spring
from the U.S. Naval Academy, and begins sea duty this fall.
Roberts raves about the efforts of the patriotic quilters she knows from
Delaware and whom she has met across the nation, the beautiful quilts they
create, and the positive responses she witnesses at the award ceremonies.
Reflecting on the many troops and their families she has met across the nation,
Roberts said, “When I go about my daily activities or travel the country, I
sometimes wonder if we are acting like we are a country at war. I wonder if we
truly appreciate the duty and hardships that servicemembers face while we are
USAF TSgt. Benjamin Matwey
Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center public affairs office
American Forces Press Service
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