Quilts of Valor offer more than words to veterans

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Arguably, perhaps, some might attribute the increased recognition accorded our active duty military personnel and veterans to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The common “thank you for your service” is definitely a far cry from that experienced by our military and veterans during the Vietnam era.  Whatever the reason, thanking someone for serving our nation, currently or in the past, is certainly a kindness appreciated by most members of the military and veterans.  In offering thanks for military service, one volunteer organization goes above a

Arguably, perhaps, some might attribute the increased recognition accorded our active duty military personnel and veterans to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The common “thank you for your service” is definitely a far cry from that experienced by our military and veterans during the Vietnam era.  Whatever the reason, thanking someone for serving our nation, currently or in the past, is certainly a kindness appreciated by most members of the military and veterans.  In offering thanks for military service, one volunteer organization goes above and beyond, making it a tangible and lasting form of appreciation.    

“Love flows from our hearts, through our hands, into the quilts we make,” offered Kay Lettington of the San Diego North County Chapter of Quilts of Valor Foundation during opening remarks at a small, dignified ceremony at the Good Samaritan Retirement Center in El Cajon.  She was there with other quilters to award quilts to several of America’s veterans who reside at the Center.  Lettington informed the gathering that Ms. Catherine Roberts, whose son Nat, U. S. Army, served in Iraq started this program.  First called Quilts for Soldiers, in recognition of her son’s service, is has evolved over time since the first quilt was awarded in November 2003.  Today, “the mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”

Lettington continued, sharing Roberts’ explanation.  “I knew a Quilt of Valor had to be a quality-made quilt, not a ‘charity quilt.’  A Quilt of Valor had to be quilted, not tied, which meant hand or machine quilting. Quilts of Valor would be ‘awarded,’ not just passed out like magazines or videos. A Quilt of Valor would say unequivocally, ‘Thank you for your service, sacrifice, and valor’ in serving our nation in combat.” 

Lettington told those gathered that the Quilts of Valor Foundation is extending its vision, with the objective of providing a quilt to every one of our nation’s veterans.  

This afternoon’s ceremony was arranged by Kathie Perdue, Veterans Liaison at the Good Samaritan Retirement Center, during which four quilters (Kay Lettington, Peggy Johnson, Melody Rasco, and Trudy Cleveland) brought handmade, one of a kind quilts for awarding to veterans.  Perdue is the spouse of a Vietnam veteran; Lettington is a long time, avid quilter and spouse of a retired U. S. Navy Officer and comes from a rich family military history stretching back to the Revolutionary War; Johnson saw a quilt presentation at a 4th of July celebration at Webb Park in Rancho Bernardo and “knew immediately it was something I want to be involved in;” Rasco enjoys sewing and the reward from creating the quilts; and Cleveland said, “It is more than just words.  Actually, it is to go the extra mile and make something with our hands.  A one of a kind quilt.  And present it as a sincere thank you.”

The quilters, volunteers all, give of their time and resources to literally make these unique, one of a kind expression of gratitude for military service.  As Perdue, whose husband was previously awarded a quilt, said, the quilts are “more personal and tangible than a ‘thank you for your service.”  It was noted that more than 171,000 quilts have been awarded since the program began in 2003.  Today eight more veterans joined that growing number.

The following veterans were awarded their custom quilts:  John Harding Casten, Ensign U.S. Navy, who served as a Torpedo Bomber pilot in World War II; Daniel Clark, Pharmacist Mate Second Class, U. S. Navy, who served in World War II; Norman Albert, Technician 5th Grade, U. S. Army, who served in the post war occupation forces in Japan; Jewett Shea, Corporal, U. S. Marine Corps, who served in World War II; Helena Roberts, Machine Accountant Second Class, U. S. Navy, who served during the post war period, in a time of limited roles for women in the military; Dennis A. Rathann, U. S. Marine Corps, who served in the Korean War;  and Peter Shenas, First Lieutenant U. S. Army, who served in post war Europe and Korea.  From the comments and smiles all around, it was very clear the quilts were greatly appreciated by these veterans.  In one profound comment, after being presented his quilt and told he was now ready for winter, Casten said, “Better winter than war.”

Lettington, explaining that, “meeting the veterans is the best part of all,” continued to offer that, “we thank people for their service, because we wouldn’t be free if it weren’t for those people willing to maybe sacrifice their lives to keep us free.”  That certainly underscores her earlier comment that, “Love flows from our hearts, through our hands, into the quilts we make.”  As the old saying goes, a grateful nation remembers.  On this afternoon, doing so with far more than words.