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Quilts of Valor

Quilts of Valor

By Janelle Cahoon, Quiltcentric

Quilts of Valor is a national effort to award quilts to our wounded and returning soldiers as a token of gratitude and appreciation for their service and sacrifice.

The idea originated in 2003 with Catherine Roberts, when her son Nathan was deployed in Iraq. So far, almost 70,000 Quilts of Valor have been made to honor and comfort returning veterans.

One outstanding volunteer was Al Lind, who had been held as a POW for 2 years during World War II.  He started making Quilts of Valor in Feb. 2007 and by the time of his death in Sept. 2010 he had pieced over 450 quilt tops for Quilts of Valor.

Like Al Lind, many who make these quilts have a connection to the military or a family member in the service, but that’s certainly not a requirement to participate.

I interviewed Alycia Carmin, who has been a Quilts of Valor volunteer for 8 years, beginning as a long-arm quilter, then becoming the Point of Contact person for the Warriors in Transition Unit at Fort Carson.  She is now also the State Coordinator for Colorado.

“People my age were being deployed — my friends and family,” Alycia explained, “and I knew we needed to do something.”

“A lot of the time,” Alycia said, “[the soldiers] are very surprised that someone really made something this beautiful for them. A lot of them are far away from family, are struggling, and really receive comfort from the quilts.  On my blog  I share pictures and emails that we receive.

“Here is what got me hooked.  We met an injured veteran in the hospital at Fort Carson and presented him a quilt.  It was my second time ever to be involved in doing this, and the stoic nature of that vet was quite impressive.  He accepted our quilt with gratitude and humility, yet never batted an eye.  I got to walk with him back to his room, and he broke down crying.  He was lonely for his family, he was angry at being injured, and most of all he thought he had been forgotten.  To know that our simple act of giving him a quilt let him know he was remembered and could offer comfort – tore me up.”

There are many ways you can help Quilts of Valor.  If you want to sew a quilt top or donate one you’ve already finished, check out the guidelines on the main Quilts of Valor website.  If you want to, you can send a top on to a volunteer long-arm quilter to finish for donation.  If you have a long-arm quilting machine and want to volunteer to quilt donated tops, there’s a need for your skills.  If you want to make the whole quilt yourself, label it according to the Quilts of Valor guidelines, make a bag/case for it and send it directly to your Regional Coordinator, that’s OK too.

If your time and goals are more limited, Alycia explains, “There are many sew groups listed on the Quilts of Valor website and you are welcome to join in with any of those.  For Colorado, I host monthly sew days.  In them, I bring pre-cut fabrics to sew into blocks; I bring blocks to set into quilts; I bring quilts ready to bind; I bring fabric that has been donated.  Get connected and I swear you will have a blast!”

To find your local Quilts  of Valor groups, go to this page, uncheck the “Official Quilt Shop” box in the block to the right of the US map, then check the box for “Local QOV Groups”.  Enter your country and state/province where indicated and click “Search”.  This will give you a listing of Quilts of Valor groups in your area, including their meeting times and locations.

I asked Alycia what she’d like to tell anyone thinking about joining the Quilts of Valor effort, and she replied, “Do it!  Although we are out of Iraq, there are those still fighting in Afghanistan.  We still have many wounded and we are short of quilts each month to cover those coming back from overseas.  You never know who will receive your quilt, and you never know what stage they are in.  I had a soldier’s mom contact me crying and telling me that our quilt saved her son’s life.  Apparently he was contemplating ending his life, but he wanted his mom to have his quilt.  So he called her and told her this. Smart mom got on the phone immediately with his counselor, and the counselor immediately went to the soldier’s barracks – and it was a good ending.  Our quilts are important – maybe not all that dramatic a story, but they are a big aspect of the healing process.”

Visit Quilts of Valor and see how you can join in this important effort to bring comfort, care and healing to our wounded veterans.


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