Stitches For A Hero

Contributed by Linda Kau, Quilts of Valor Foundation

The Quilts of Valor Foundation is looking forward to participating in “Who Let The Girls Out” activities in Palmer this year. We’ll be sitting in front of the fireplace at the Downtown Deli where everyone is invited to add a few stitches to a Quilt of Valor® that will later be awarded to a local veteran. One mother’s dream of supporting our service members has become a nationwide effort “To cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts.”

Catherine Roberts had a vivid dream one night while her son, Nathanial, was deployed to Iraq in 2003.  In her dream she saw “a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter. Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being. The quilt made this dramatic change.”

To this quilter the message seemed to be “Quilts = Healing.” Quilts could help heal invisible wounds by offering gratitude and comfort. From these thoughts the non-profit all volunteer Quilts of Valor Foundation was formed. The model developed includes teams of volunteers who donate their time and materials to create quilts to be donated to these heroes.

Her vision remains the forefront of all of our volunteers. These Quilts of Valor are a quality quilt, “not a charity quilt.” It is seen as the civilian equivalent of a Purple Heart and is made following the Standards of Excellence as set forth by the QOVF (available at Groups work together to stitch quilts with love, prayers and healing thoughts, and they are seen as tangible tokens of appreciation that says, “Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor.” 

The first Quilt of Valor was awarded to a young soldier who had lost a leg in Iraq while he was recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center by Catherine Roberts with the help of Army chaplain, Captain John Kallerson. After seeing this soldier’s reaction to the receipt of his QOV, the chaplain asked if more quilts could be sent to the field hospitals to be awarded immediately to the wounded.  When it quickly became obvious that Roberts and her quilter friends could not keep up with the need she reached out to the nation’s quilters for help via the internet.

Soon coordination of the effort required more leadership based throughout the country, so state coordinators were brought on board. During the summer of 2011, Linda Kau accepted the challenge by becoming Alaska State Coordinator. Since then hundreds of quilts have been made by quilters in the Mat-Su Valley, Eagle River and Anchorage and awarded locally. 

This September will find the group awarding quilts to new resident veterans at the Alaska Veterans and Pioneer Home in Palmer for the fifth consecutive year.  Soldiers based at the Warriors Transition Battalions at JBER and Ft. Wainwright have been recognized.  Many members of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association of Alaska plus WWII and Korean veterans returning on The Last Frontier Honor flights have also received their belated thank yous. 

Numerous individual nominations are filled each year from requests that come through the foundation’s website, . To add to South Central’s quilters’ efforts, groups have formed last year in Fairbanks and Kodiak. The Fairbanks leader reaches out to villages in the interior as well as veterans closer to home. Many active duty and veterans of the Coast Guard are recognized by their local group in Kodiak.

“There are many more deserving veterans touched by war who have yet to receive their Quilt of Valor,” says Linda Kau. “Quilters and long-armers are always needed. Don’t quilt? There are other ways you can help. Stop by the Downtown Deli during the “Who Let The Girls Out” event and we’ll explain how you can help. Sit and rest while you add a few stitches to the binding of a QOV.  Of course we accept donations to help the volunteers produce more quilts, too.”