Quilts of Valor began in 2003 when Catherine Roberts, inspired by her son Nathanael's yearlong deployment to Iraq, wanted to see all returning warriors welcomed home with the love and gratitude they deserved.
Roberts connected quilters across the country hoping to make quilts for all returning service men and women touched by war. In their 10 years of piecing together labor and love, QOV has provided nearly 86,000 quilts to show gratitude and appreciation to returning combat troops.
Since 2009, Gwinnett County has been playing a big role in this effort, not only in the production of quilts, but with Susan Gordon of Lawrenceville serving as regional coordinator for both Georgia and North Carolina. While most QOVs are made entirely by one quilter, some are a joint effort of many women, men and even children constructing individual squares. After they are artfully pieced together, they are then quilted with a long arm machine. The group then binds, washes and labels them and wraps them in a special case for presentation.
The stories behind the quilts are as varied as their designs. One memorable presentation took place at Fort Benning where the last six surviving Flying Tigers, a mission group of 200 Americans who aided China in 1940, received Quilts of Valor for their service.
While most quilts patterns consist of patriotic symbols in red, white and blue, one quilt came in with a collection of alphabet squares, not a design that would typically appeal to a returning warrior. However, QOV connected with an injured soldier who was suffering from traumatic brain injury and having to relearn his whole life. While all efforts on the part of professionals had failed, it was with that quilt that he relearned the alphabet.
Sometimes the most touching stories are about the quilters themselves, like Ingeburg Scheel, who grew up in Nazi Germany. She came to a QOV meeting saying she had never quilted in her life, but wanted to learn. She was assigned a coach, Betsy Podriznik. Upon completing her first quilt, she was able to request a destination and chose to have it sent to a military hospital in Germany. As an added touch, to honor her late husband who had been an American soldier, she weaves a piece of one of his shirts into each of her designs.
The warmth of the quilts can be touching beyond words. As one recipient said "My quilt isn't another military medal to be placed in a box and sit on my shelf. I was moved to tears."
The next group QOV presentation will be in Adel in September when the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall will be displayed there. The public is invited to join in, but if you can't be a part of that ceremony, QOV meets third Thursdays at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Lawrenceville. For more information or to make a donation to help email returning warriors, contact susan.gordon@QOVF.org.
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.