Quilters working nationally to thank veterans, service members
The founder and executive director of the Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOVF), Catherine Roberts, made a stop in Franklin last Thursday while on her “Coast to Coast” tour promoting the foundation. Roberts met with volunteers to discuss strategy and to recognize three area veterans who have received quilts through the foundation.
QOVF is a non-profit organization comprised solely of volunteers who work toward their mission of the covering “All those service members and veterans touched by war with Wartime Quilts called Quilts of Valor (QOVs). This foundation is not about politics. It’s about people.”
World War II veteran Jack R.Vaughan Jr. was among the veterans being honored at the luncheon. Vaughan received his Quilt of Valor from his service in the U.S. Navy Reserve from June 1944 to June 1946 as an Aviation Store Keeper that supplied stock and issued all types of aircraft repair equipments. Vaughan and his wife Dot celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary last week.
Vaughan is still forever grateful for the quilt that the volunteers at QOVF provided to him.
“I am very appreciative that a group of quilters care enough to spend their own time to quilt for us old veterans,” said Vaughan. Like all quilt recipients, Vaughan was able to choose which quilt he wanted. His quilt was made locally and has a beautiful patriotic theme.
Macon County native, Nathan “Nat” B. Henry, received a locally made quilt from QOVF that depicts a breathtaking North Carolina landscape. Henry was a Prisoner Of War (POW) during the Vietnam War and the recipient of two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts for his selfless service during the Vietnam War. Henry is a past president and current chairman of the Board of Directors of the Smoky Mountain Vietnam Veterans Chapter 994. Henry is the subject of the book “To Hell and Beyond” the story of Nathan B. “Nat” Henry — Vietnam Veteran POW.
Henry was held captive from July 12, 1967 until March 5, 1973 by the North Vietnamese Army after being the sole survivor of his platoon after a battle with enemy forces. During the luncheon, to show his appreciation of Roberts and the QOVF, Henry presented Roberts with a photo that was taken of him and three other POWs on a jungle trail in Vietnam. Henry chose the photo because it was shown to his parents two years after he was captured which allowed him to be identified as a POW instead of just Missing in Action (MIA). The photo gave Henry’s parents hope and comfort just as the quilts of QOVF offer veterans and service members.
Henry has teamed up with QOVF supporter and news letter editor, Peggy James, to begin selling Henry’s book, “To Hell and Beyond” at Bri-Mat Creations. Proceeds from the book sales through Bri-Mat Creations will be used to support QOVF. Signed copies of the book can be purchased for $16.95 beginning Sept. 17, at www.brimatcreations.com.
Henry will continue to spread the message of QOVF throughout the community. He will soon be meeting with two of the men that he was captured with during the Vietnam War, Cordine McMurray and Richard Perricone to present each of them with Quilts of Valor.
Afghanistan War veteran and current Macon County Sheriff's Office road deputy, Scott Nelson was recognized at the luncheon for 23 years of service in the United States Army. Nelson moved from New York to Franklin with his parents, Ed and Bobbie Nelson in 1989. On Feb. 4, 2005, Nelson was deployed to Afghanistan and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division where he heroically served until returning home on May 2, 2006. He and Alice, his wife of 16 years, welcomed their son Garrett on April 25, 2007.
Nelson was given his quilt while receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. According to Nelson, when he and other service members returned to their hospital beds they were surprised to find beautiful handmade quilts draped over their beds.
“I am sure the other guys would agree that the first thing we thought was, we weren’t sure if those quilts were for us or not, but we were hoping that Walter Reed wasn’t going to miss them after we were gone,” Nelson joked.
Nelson is president of the Macon County Enforcers Motorcycle Club, which was established in the spring of 2000. The club works diligently to raise awareness for various charities and organizations, including QOVF. According to Nelson, the club’s colors are derived from the medieval “swordsmen” who were the enforcers of the law during that time. Each color depicted in the club’s emblem carries its own significance and is indicative of the reputation that Nelson and other members of the club have worked to establish. Silver represents the badge; red represents the blood lost in battle; and black represents the mourning for all fallen officers and servicemen and women.
“We wear our colors to respect and remember our brothers and our members,” explained Nelson. “This motorcycle club promotes an enjoyable, friendly atmosphere, and offers the opportunity to meet and ride with those who love motorcycles in a safe manner when we are on our leisure time. We have many events and fundraisers of our own which donates proceeds to charity.” Nelson plans to begin working with QOVF on future projects to help raise awareness to the foundation.
Members of quilting guilds from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia all traveled to Franklin to visit with Roberts over lunch which was catered by Rana Rinata’s Italian Restaurant. Members of the Smoky Mountain Vietnam Veterans Chapter 994 who have received quilts from the local guild attended the event to support QOVF. During Roberts’ visit to Macon County, she met with quilters and quilt shops to share information on what they were doing individually for QOVF and to discuss the foundation’s progress on the national level.
Roberts began QOVF in 2003 after her son Nathanael was deployed to Iraq. She was inspired after seeing the love and gratitude warriors received after returning home, and wanted to join the effort. Roberts began working tirelessly to link quilt-toppers with machine quilters in a national effort to make wartime quilts that would be a constant reminder of America’s appreciation and gratitude for service men and women all over the country who have been touched by war. Roberts started QOVF from the sewing room in her Seaford, Delaware home.
Since its inception, QOVF has spread like wildfire throughout the country and has active groups in every state in America. The foundation has evolved into a national grassroots community service effort, connecting the home-front with wounded combat warriors and veterans. QOVF has produced and distributed around 50,000 quilts for service members.
The foundation also has coalition members in Canada and the United Kingdom. The QOVF understands that even though the warriors in other countries are not fighting for America, they are still touched by war and are equally deserving of the comfort the foundation has sought to bring to servicemen and women.
The QOVF is adopted by local quilting guilds and is an addition to programs that already exist within the guild. Region Eight of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is directed by coordinator Susan Gordon and consists of quilters from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Smoky Mountain Quilters Guild is the local guild in Franklin, and the host of the luncheon.
Each of the quilts that are provided by QOVF are generous lap-sized quilts made from quality fabrics and usually sport patriotic themes. Each quilt is stitched with love, prayers and healing thoughts. Once the quilt has been bound, washed, labeled and wrapped in a presentation case, it is ready to be awarded. Depending on the local QOVF group that creates a quilt, other items are also given along with the quilt. Quilts from the Smoky Mountain quilters guild are accompanied with a special card with a photo of the quilt taken by Peggy James of Bri-Mat Creations Photography. Inside the card there is a special note thanking the quilt recipient. “It is with honor we give back something from our hearts and souls to you the American Hero,” reads the card, “you have given great sacrifices of yourself to provide us with the freedoms and liberty that we have come to know in these United States of America.”
Often times along with the quilts, service members will receive a journal that was kept during the process of making the quilt. Volunteers who work on the quilt document the quilt’s creation with pictures, thoughts, and information and what goes into making the quilt. Because quilts are distributed so widely, it is rare that quilters get to meet the service member who receives their quilt. The journals allow a personal perspective and offers service members the chance to know more about the volunteers who continue to work hard to provide quilts.
The quilts are distributed through various organizations ranging from chaplains at military hospitals to special presentations that award entire service units after they return home from combat to individual presentation to veterans. Regardless of how a quilt is awarded, the impact they deliver is without equal.