Monday, March 12, 2012

Quilts of Valor Find a Home

Speaking of guild challenges, our 2010 "Home is Where the Quilt Is" quilts for Quilts of Valor have finally made it to their final destination. As I shared before, our guild decided that we wanted to share these quilts locally, and I had a few speedbumps along the way trying to find a place to donate them.

Then I got an email from Susan Gordon, the Regional Coordinator for our area. It read in part:

This February we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of 85 of our sailors and marines who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  These young men and women have been what the military calls “individual augmentees”.  They are often reservists and are activated and sent overseas to augment a unit, for as much as a year or more, because of their special skills.  Now they are coming home and will be part of a program called the Returning Warrior Weekend.  It is an intensive weekend program to help them assimilate back into – what will be the new “normal” for them.
These men and women did not go to war with their unit, or platoon, or company, they may be the only member of their reserve unit to be deployed.  When they return, nothing is the same.  They have faced a life we can’t imagine and have been asked to do things that don’t fit into the civilian life to which they are returning.
The Returning Warrior Weekend is a program to help them begin the adjustment, and to begin the healing that they need to become part of a family, part of a community and to find a way to live with that “new norm” that is now their life.  At the end of this program which includes sessions like “Life Matters” – finding a spiritual balance;  “Warrior Transition” – first person testimonies; and “Combat Operational Stress Control” just to highlight a few, these warriors are honored at  banquet.  Georgia Quilts of Valor has been asked to provide quilts for these service members who have been touched by war.

The creators of this program tell me that our Quilts of Valor are an important part of the healing  that begins for so many during their time together.  Our Quilts serve as symbols of honor for those who have stood in harm’s way and to whom we have entrusted the defense of this country we love.    I ask you to be a part of that healing process, to share your gifts of quilting and help us make 85 quilts to be presented at the February Returning Warrior Honor Banquet in Augusta, Georgia.

The reality is:  we either have 85 Quilts of Valor or none are presented.  I think know we can do this, with your help.  

I immediately contacted Susan to let her know that we would be honored for our quilts to go to these warriors.  It was especially appropriate since there were several women in the group and, if you remember, some of our quilts were on the feminine side.  A team of volunteers met to pass the quilts along, and then we waited.

Finally I got the long-awaited email that left me wrung out from weeping with gratitude. The quilts were home.  Susan wrote:

Dear Quilts of Valor Quilters:
Saturday night I had the opportunity and the honor to participate in an awesome experience along with quilters Sue W, Rebecca K, Betsy P and Tiffany W.  We were observers at the Banquet of Honor for the Returning Warriors Weekend in Augusta, Georgia, sponsored by the U.S. Navy for Navy & Marine personnel returning from a war zone.  The weekend offered sessions for service members and family members as all explored and discovered effective methods of dealing with the “new normal” that was life after a combat deployment.
The Banquet of Honor began as the doors to the banquet hall opened.  Captain Greg Smith announced to the warriors and their guests assembled in the in the atrium, that as individual Augmentees, they often missed the welcome home experienced by larger companies and reserve forces as they returned from deployment in a war zone.  “Tonight is your Welcome Home Celebration”, and then he led them into a beautifully decorated ballroom to rousing music, and the cheers and applause of those of us who’d been allowed in earlier.  It was loud and welcoming.  (my first tear filled moment)
As I entered the banquet hall I noticed a table set for dinner on the stage with an MIA logo draped over the chair.  Before dinner was served, the group observed a ceremony that often precedes a formal military dinner: the POW/MIA Ceremony (my second tear filled moment), ending with taps.  As each part of the ceremony was explained, the Captain would say “REMEMBER” and a naval bell would toll once.  It was heartwarming moment as the daughter of a former POW to know that POW’s and MIA’s are never forgotten.
After dinner Captain Smith called Sue Wolf and me to the stage and told the group about Quilts of Valor: the how and why Catherine Roberts had started the Foundation, and that our mission was to cover all those combat service members and veterans who had been touched by war with Quilts of Valor.  He told them your quilts were for healing and for saying thank you for their service.  At this moment Butler High School MCROTC members delivered your quilts to Facilitators at each table.  The Facilitators in turn presented each warrior at their table with one of your gorgeous, patriotic quilts.  Some facilitators took each quilt from it’s case and draped each person in his or her Quilt of Valor; others formally handed off your quilt in it’s case and the warriors quickly separated their new quilt from its case to admire your work and embrace the quilt and all it represents.  (my third tear filled moment)
To look out from the stage at 78 warriors (14 of whom were women), wrapped in your quilts was an experience I don’t think I will ever forget.  But the best experience for the quilters who were present was when these young men and women began to seek us out to hug us and to thank us for your awesome gifts.  One told me it was the most wonderful gift he has ever received.  Another told me he had been a medic in Kandahar and has draped these beautiful quilts around his charges as he helped load them on transports to be sent home.  He never expected to receive one of his own.
As often as we could, we told them stories about you as we checked the labels to see who had made each quilt.  Many asked about you and how to contact you to thank you personally.  I hope if you do receive a personal note you will share their messages with the rest of us.
You are a blessing to these young warriors who are working to re-construct their lives and relationships stateside.  They were touched by your talent, your generosity, and your loving support.  I am so proud of you all and to be a small part of this great outpouring of love to our military.
Susan Gordon, Regional Coordinator

Thank you, Susan, for helping our quilts get home.  Thanks to all of the quilters who helped provide the quilts in any way.  But thank you most of all to our military personnel and their families who have sacrificed so much in the name of freedom.  Words are not enough; all we have is love.  And quilts.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful experience! It's great that your guild was able to participate in such a moving and healing ceremony. Beautiful.


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