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WAC Band Reunion – Day 3

I can honestly say after today I know I was in the Army because every other year when I return for our Reunion, we work as hard as when we all served together. Eight hours of practice wore out our lips but us trumpeters were not done for the evening.  We honored our fallen with harmonized taps before our dinner.  Trumpet players have always been like pranksters so without our First Sergeant knowing (Dixie), we did an on the spot fanfare and mess call.  You should have seen Dixie’s face.  She was cracking up laughing.  Later she told me we really got her.  We had Generals and big wigs but it didn’t stop the trumpet players.  Wait till concert night.

We had a great dinner and then Dixie gave out our awards. We had a special guest, Dr. Joanna Hersey, who honored each one of us with a Certificate from the International Women’s Brass Conference with A Circle of Excellence Award for serving in the military women’s band.  We all felt honored.  She is a very accomplished tuba player and played in the Coast Guard band.

Then Dixie called me up to present the first quilt. It was hanging behind the podium and I told the Band it would be given to Mona Meltz, our director for over 20 years.  They all started clapping and yelling, they were so happy.  Then I called Tine, one of my sisters, up front.  Now, you really have to know Tina for this award.  She is always wise cracking but under all that is pain she has hidden for years.  She broke into tears but wrapped in that quilt she was so proud.  I went to give her case to her and she said, “put is on my head and I’ll be all covered,” so I did.  Cameras were flashing, and tears and laughter were everywhere.  Of all the thousands of quilts I’ve given, Tina’s was a first with the case.

After I had sat down, Dixie called me back up and she started telling all my sisters how much I helped the band and then they awarded me a Cymbal of Appreciation. It is truly a cymbal and it is beautiful.  Everyone was clapping and taking pictures – it was such an honor.  I truly was humbled by how much they cared.  God bless my sisters.

Our auction made over $1,000 and the quilt went for $450. The soldier who bought it is still serving and she was well deserving of the quilt.  I wish I could have given it to her – 33 years she has served.

As I close, I feel pretty blessed to have been honored and bring home something I will treasure the rest of my life – being honored by my sisters.

We have Friday off until 1600 hours (4:00 pm) when we have to be at Chapel for pictures before our concert.

God bless,
Gail

WAC Band Reunion – Day 2

Well, we survived the first full day of practice and yes, we still got it. We rocked the chapel.  We voted to skip the mess hall and went AWOL for a Chinese buffet and everyone was a lot happier.  Got my trip to the Base PX but it’s about as big as a postage stamp.  Went for a ride through Anniston and I’m now famous with my sister, Carol, for u-turns.  I turned right in the middle of Main Street and parked in front of the restaurant.  Sound familiar?  I’m practicing for DC.

We finished practice a little early so went to my room and thought I would take a nap. I just got all comfy and the telephone rings.  Section leader says, “Belmont, get your butt down here.  We are having a section trumpet practice.”  I’m thinking I must be back in the Army – dejavue.  We do have an awesome trumpet section and if we pull off our surprise tomorrow night, it will be worth it.

If you see a guy in our pictures, it’s our brother Bob.  Bob was assigned to The Women’s Army Corps Band right before they integrated the bands.  He is called our brother and attends our reunions and is proud to be one of us and we are proud to call him our brother.  He is our baby brother and plays saxophone and is awesome.

40 of us went to dinner at yes, Damn Yankees restaurant – what a name in Alabama. We had the most southern waiter – he twanged more than me.  Tomorrow we have dinner and the first quilts will be given out, so I will keep you posted.  Tonight I can say I’m tired.  I think I blew all my extra air and it wore me out.  Not happy watching our Giants get beat but we have a long series to go.

God bless,
Gail

WAC Band in Alabama – Day 1

Day 1 of my Reunion in Alabama has not let my expectations down! While doing errands for our 1st Sergeant I saw all these Army guys standing in line at this old beat up truck on the side of the road.  I said to Carol, my WAC sister, must be a good place to eat with all those people.  She said she was hungry so there we went – my first u-turn in the middle of a Alabama highway.  We walked up to the window and I saw fried okra, fried green tomatoes and I was a happy camper.  They also had a sign that said “Goodwin Burger” so I asked one of the guys what that was.  He said it was like a sloppy joe so carol and I ordered one of those, too.  When we got our order, I have to say I’ve never eaten a burger like that.  It was like a scrambled burger with great flavor but I bet it had enough grease to slide down the road.  We had more grease in our lunch than I know I’ve eaten all year but it was the best I ever had.  We both said we were going to pay for it later and about one hour later we were both asking each other for Tums.  Do you think we learned a lesson?  Doubt it.  That okra sure was good, too.

We started our afternoon with our mixer. We have over 58 members attending and 48 will be on stage to play.  That’s the most ever.  Everyone loved the bags and books.  We raffled one quilt and of course they all wanted it.  I gave the trumpet section their wall hangings and you can see how much they meant.  They put them on the music stands and are using them in our concert. Tomorrow we start our all day practice beginning at 9:00 am sharp, in our chairs. If you’re late you’re in deep dodo.

It’s great to be together again. It’s like we never left each other.  I’m still keeping track of our Giants like all back home.

God bless you all. Stay tuned, ha, funny when that’s all I will be doing this week – staying in tune.
Gail

Halloween Bunco…etc

What a night to remember. We had our annual Halloween Bunco Fundraiser Saturday night with over 80 players.  It is always exciting when there are that many players.  There was added excitement when they told me there were a couple of birthdays so I asked the crowd to help sing happy birthday.  Jim, one of our Marine veterans got up and started dancing in front of Carolyn and the crowd went wild.  It was so funny – too bad we didn’t get it on camera.

We always try to honor a veteran so all can see how much it means. For a while now, I have tried to honor Jim.  He is a true Marine, an Honor Guard member of American Legion Post 102, and a volunteer in the community – a true example of a veteran.  I asked Lou, my veteran brother, to award the quilt as they are good friends.  Jim is a pretty loud guy.  He had danced to happy birthday so he isn’t shy but when I handed him his quilt, he quietly said to me, “I’m so honored.”  The whole place was standing up clapping and I saw so many tears.  I told everyone that this is why we continue to make our quilts.  We all had a great night and made good money.  Thank you to all who came dressed up and supported us.

This past month has been a rush getting ready for Mount Vernon and DC. We have packed over 150 quilts thanks to Carolyn, Bill, Barb and Cliff.  Pilot Freight will pick them up on October 22nd to take them to DC.  Thank you to Pilot Freight for supporting us – a true American company also supporting our troops.

October 20-25 I will be in Alabama at my Army Band Reunion. Every other year we all meet at Fort McClellan, Alabama where we were stationed.  We practice for three days and on the 25th, Friday night, we perform a free concert for all who want to hear us.  The bond we have is as strong today as it was 45 years ago.  I will be attending by myself, no QOH crew.  I will miss their help as we will be honoring 13 Quilts of Honor recipients during the week.

I will keep you updated on my week of being back in the Women’s Army Corps Band. The only difference from years ago to today is we are old and gray, walk with limps, can’t hear, but we can still play our hearts out.

God bless everyone – stay tuned,
Gail

Rolling Through September

On the 19th, I had the honor of awarding a quilt to a WWII veteran.  His family had gathered together to say goodbye to the granddaughter who was going off to college so he had no idea he would be honored at Round Table Pizza.  His daughter introduced me and as I stepped forward and started ‘my words’, he automatically said, “I’m standing up to give you a hug,” which he did.  Then came the tears.  It was pretty awesome.

On the 20th, we headed to Sonora to the Sierra Quilt Guild’s Quilt Show.  They gave us a great space and fancy curtains.  Nancy, Cora, Joyce and Rene joined Flo and me to learn how to work the booth.  It wasn’t long when up walked Art, a Vietnam Veteran.  Joyce shook his hand and I ran for a quilt in the truck, came back and awarded him a quilt.  He said, “I wasn’t even going to come to the quilt show – who wants to come with a wife, but boy I’m glad now.”  Then a gentlemen walked up and wanted to donate money to us.  Cora ask him if he was a veteran.  He said that he was in Vietnam as a fireman.  So here I go again.  I run to the truck, get another quilt – you would think I would have gotten smart and kept one close.  I handed him his quilt and he just chocked up.  He was so overwhelmed.  About ten minutes later he returned and I heard someone say, Gail.  I looked up and he was saluting us with big tears – so cool.

We weren’t done yet. Next was found out that there was an Army nurse in the Quilt Guild so with everyone in tow, we went to find her.  She was working the ticket booth.  We gave her a quilt.  Then we had our lunch and Lisa gave us popsicles – we were happy campers.  It wasn’t long when up comes a gentleman with an Eagle hat so Joyce says, nice hat.  He said he was a Vietnam veteran.  I heard it so this time I had a quilt right next to us.  I took his hand and gave him his quilt.  He, too, was overwhelmed but so proud.  I would say we have had a good couple of days.

In the last minutes of the Show, we gave an 82 Airborne US Army veteran his honors for Grenada. The show had actually closed when his mother-in-law came running up and asked us if we could give another quilt.  We have seen how much they mean and he has gone through so much.  We never stop.

To complete the weekend, Lisa donated 15 quilt tops and 1 completed quilt. What a great weekend.  Thank you to Sierra Quilt Guild for the Booth and the help.

Hope to see you all on September 24th if you can make it.  We’ll be having BBQ hamburgers.

God bless,
Gail

September Continues ……..

September 10th

Flo and I began our day at the Tuleburg Quilt Guild in Stockton, CA. I spoke about Quilts of Honor and shared our story of Mt. Vernon.  Then we headed to Antioch to meet our Queen B’s QOH group at the VFW Hall, have dinner, and award three quilts.  After a good dinner, we surprised our recipients with their quilts.  One was a female who has recently accepted the job of Commander of the State of California American Legion.  She is the first female in California history.  So proud of Queen B’s QOH group – they will be awarding a couple more quilts on the 16th.  They have grown and are becoming a big part of Quilts of Honor.  Keep up the great work!

September 14th

The 2nd Annual Quilts of Honor Fundraiser was held at the Scottish Rite Temple in Stockton, CA.  Our two cooks started the morning at 6:30am smoking 20 tri-tips.  Big Rick and little Rick have quite a system and we can’t thank them enough for spending the whole day with us working in the heat, and it was hot in that kitchen.  The food was great – Toni made tons of potato salad and we still ran out.

Our crew arrived at 10:30 am to set up tables, chairs and raffle. We are so blessed to have so many volunteers who are so talented in so many ways, helping us with the dessert raffle and we’re still learning.  For decorations and raffle baskets we have the best in Willene; desserts we have Jackie, Nancy and Sochi’s family.  They were killer desserts and some went for $100 – it was fun to watch people battle for peach pie or chocolate cream pie.  We lost our auctioneer at the last minute and Congressman Jerry McNerney stepped up and earned us $1,282.00.

We had a great awards ceremony awarding 9 quilts. Of course we told them stories to get them there.  I asked Rick to come and play taps  for the event so he came and brought his horn.  I even played along by telling him when he would play so when I called his name to come and receive his quilt, he was speechless.  Each recipient had no idea – it was so great to see how overwhelmed and proud that they were receiving a quilt.  One recipient asked to talk – he said our group have given a quilt to one of his WWII Navy guys last year and he passed away three weeks ago with his quilt on his bed.  He started to cry and said you don’t know how much these quilts mean.

We were honored to have Tim, a professional photographer, come to our event. He took some awesome pictures of our afternoon and shared them with us.  Thank you, Tim.  Andy, Carol and some of our dinner guests helped us serve and I had my adopted grand kids who volunteered all day.  It was my folk’s 64th wedding anniversary also, so that was cool.  My second family came from Gardnerville to surprise me – that meant so much.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the day.  Our QOH team worked hard to make it a honored, proud event.  These pictures are just a sampling of the events of the day.  To see more pictures, visit our Quilts of Honor Facebook page.

To all who supported us, God Bless you. It’s so hard to ask for money and raise money and you all came through.

September 20th and 21st we will be at the Sonora Quilt Show at the Fairgrounds.

September 24th is our QOH Workshop.

September is keeping us going,

Gail

We Never Stop

I really have been trying to keep up on our Blog but sometimes I just run out of time.  Here’s what we have been up to since the last post.

We attended our first Car Show at the Lincoln Center in Stockton, CA on August 15th.  I have never seen so many cars and people.  The Village Barber Shop sponsored us a spot so we could sell our shirts.  The evening started with a quilt ceremony.  The colors were posted by Karl Ross Post 16 American Legion, the national anthem was sung, and then we did something very different.  We had John, a Native American, bless the quilts.  It was so spiritual and you could see the love while he was blessing the quilts.  Then we began to award quilts.  The first quilt went to Terry, a Vietnam veteran who had no idea – he thought he was coming to sing a song he had written about Vietnam.  His reaction was total surprise and his face lit up.  We then awarded another eleven quilts to mostly WWII veterans.  All had never been thanked and so many were overwhelmed.  One that stood out in my mind was a gentleman with a cane.  As he reached me he said, “I have never, never had a thank you.  This is just so nice.”  It was the way he looked at me, he was so sincere.  We had a good evening with a great flyover.  The evening ended with my playing taps for everyone.

The following weekend, Debbie and I headed to Milpitas for the Orange Brotherhood BBQ.  As we walked in, there were people packed in the backyard – 140 people – a record for this group.  None of our veterans knew they were to receive quilts.  We were to award quilts to 10 veterans and two memorial quilts.  From the first quilt each veteran had tears.  The Orange Brotherhood is an organization where all veterans have been exposed to Agent Orange.  So often the veterans are in and out of hospitals depending on the degree of their exposure.  Quilts of Honor has worked with this group for three years.  Twice a year they have a QOH ceremony but often the veterans become sick so we push the quilt through whenever they need one.  This year we sent quilts twice but the veterans passed before the quilts could be awarded.  We felt so sad.  So instead, two families were invited to the BBQ not knowing they were going to receive a quilt.  We called each wife up and presented their quilts and then had all the families come up.  I snuck to the corner of the yard, Phil called everyone to attention, and I played taps.  They said it was pretty awesome.

Debbie and I hit the road running as we had another event to attend – the Orange and Black Ball – with our partners United Way of San Joaquin County.  We drove to Stockton, changed our clothes, picked up Flo and off we went again.  By the time we were done that day we were pooped.

We had our workday on August 27th with a full house and so thankful for all the help.  We have added extra work days to try and get quilts ready for all our events in September, October and Mount Vernon in November.  We will be going to the Denair Car Show on September 13th; our fundraiser in Stockton on September 14th; the Sonora quilt show September 20th and 21st; and workshop on September 24th.  So we are busy continuing our mission.

Thank you to all who support us.  God bless until next time,
Gail

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