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What a week for so many of our Groups. I know, here at headquarters, these last few weeks have been crazy. We mailed over 60 Quilts – it just doesn’t seem to slow down.

I loved seeing the photos and stories on Facebook. So proud of our Quilts of Honor Groups! I didn’t get to do all I usually do as I had a partial replacement of my knee. I did get to go on Veterans Day to a short ceremony at University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. It was a beautiful Veterans Day with outside ceremony and our good friend, Andy Prokop, was there to assist us with honoring a Marine veteran. When Andy called his name, he walked forward and said, “I can’t believe this is happening to me. This is nice. I’m so honored, so surprised.” He kept saying thank you. He took his quilt and walked back to his coworkers where they held it out and looked at it. Chad must have thanked Quilts of Honor 15 times. He said it was going to take him a couple of weeks to realize this. We got to have cookies and punch so it was a good Veterans Day.

On Sunday, November 13, Flo and I drove to Concord to award a quilt at my brother’s church, The Bridge, in Concord, CA. We arrived right at the last moment but Russ introduced me and we called the veteran forward. He had no idea he was receiving a quilt. He even had this look like I’m not coming up there. When he stepped up toward me I said we are in God’s house and he knows we tell stories to get our veterans to receive their quilts so not to hold it against us. When I took his hand and said my thing, tears started streaming down his face and I knew how much his quilt meant. He later said I’m not deserving of this and I told him yes you are. He was a Vietnam veteran with a couple of tours. It was that kind of award when you knew how much he needed this quilt. That was a great end to Veterans week for me. It is always my favorite day of the year.

To our groups who went the extra mile helping honor our veterans this week, thank you. We are going to post your pictures of Veterans week for all to see with this blog.

God bless you all and keep stitching.
Gail

Branson Group

Nebraska Group

Queen B’s Group

 

 

What an honor it was to be able to award each of my Sisters quilts. I must say, Quilts of Honor volunteers went out of their way to make the most awesome quilts for them. The video below shows so much and tells a small story of why these quilts mean so much.

I have always given a small piece of my heart each time I shake a veteran’s hand and to shake my Sisters’ hands who I served with meant so much to me. I hope it meant that to all of them also. May these quilts bring healing and love.

Special thank you to Denise Shelton for making this video for Quilts of Honor.

God bless,
Gail

This was a night I will always remember for so many reasons. We had band practice all day and I mean, all day. I thought my lips would fall off. Debbie and Flo stayed back at the hotel so they could get the quilts ready and hidden for presentation since all the band would be at practice. That was our first mistake. One member was sick and one member was late and kept wandering the halls so it took longer before they could get going.

The plan was they would drive the quilts to the back door, load them on a luggage rack and get them inside. First, the quilts fell off the rack – good thing they were all in plastic bags. Then, you know how Debbie and luggage racks don’t get along? The rack got loose, Debbie fell on the curb and the rack hit her in the head. Now I’m at practice 5 miles away. We had just taken a break and the Director says, “Gail Belmont, front and center.” I’m thinking, OMG, what did I do. She tells me that she wants me to do an interview for the TV station and to get the girls to come back with the quilt. Now I know they are stressed trying to get the quilts out and I didn’t know about the mishap, so I phoned Flo and told her I needed them here by 10:45. It’s not good to get Flo excited like that and she said real serious, “Are you kidding? Do you know what I’m going through over here?” She goes on about it not being an easy job and a few other things, and I’m pretty much in SGT mode by this time and was back in the Army again, so I calmly say, “you can make it back here, right?” She answered me with, “Yes we will. I gotta go. Bye” I was like, dang, what a mess. They are supposed to have an easy morning and I’m going on TV and look like a truck ran over me. My allergies kicked up in good old Alabama and my lip was red from practice. Oh, and the Chapel was like 50 degrees – the air conditioner never stopped. Needless to say, our Thursday morning started off like a top of elephants. The girls got there in time, I did the interview, and we had a good southern lunch.

We practiced all afternoon and then the trumpets had to stay afterwards to practice fanfare and taps. We barely got ready for dinner and the ceremony. All three of us got our blue dress shirts on and off we went to dinner.

Now the plan was, we would give out the first 6 quilts then go down to the office where the quilts were stashed and covered with blue sheets tied onto the luggage rack, and roll them into the room which I thought was pretty cool.

The First SGT called me up to present the quilts. First was to one of our band Directors who had 42 years active duty. You can see the expression on her face and yes she cried. Then I called two of our guys who help us. One is a Vietnam veterans and Stan the Man who helps us with equipment every reunion and on concert night with the podium. Both men were totally overwhelmed and cried and hugged me. They the band’s special honorary member, Kay, who has done our food every reunion – she cried and was overwhelmed. I was batting 100% with tears. I also presented Command Sergeant Major Denise Shelton her quilt after returning from Iraq. Then came one of my special ones – to the First Sgt. She had no idea and she even asked Flo who the quilt was for. She totally went crazy and it was Carl’s attic window QOH.

Before they rolled the cart into the room, I told them that I don’t normally present quilts to non-combat veterans but I knew so many in that room had experiences that they never talked about and that they were my sisters and each one would be receiving a quilt. There were gasps in the room and some tears started flowing. I explained that we would do 5 at a time and that their name would be called. I can still see so many of their faces, the warmth in their eyes as they shook my hand; some kissed me and some hugged me. Some said they couldn’t believe this was happening. The ones I knew more you could see their buttons were ready to pop. When I told them to unfold their quilts and they saw the instruments and the patterns, they were amazed. So many comments – “how did they do that?” “look at that!” I must say my band has never been a quiet bunch but at times you could hear a pin drop. Those who received their quilts went out into the hallway and one of the ladies took pictures with their quilts.

I explained to them all that I felt my QOH family went out of the box for them and I hope they took the time to tell them. You can already find thank you’s on Facebook. I know when they get home and family and friends see their quilts, it will be special again.

When we finished, I was surprised when Flo and Debbie and my First Sgt. presented me with my quilt that they had snuck from California. I had once mentioned that I wished I could get my quilt with my sisters and brother. I told the ladies not to get jealous when I showed it. They laughed and clapped and loved it, too. I was also awarded a picture frame with a special quilt saying that they made me read out loud to the group.

We made a ton of money on the auction and they were really bidding on the raffle quilt. The Director called Debbie and Flo up front and they were presented with challenge coins. They also got their picture taken just like the band members and both of them and Quilts of Honor are now honorary members of the 14th Women’s Army Corps Band.

I couldn’t write Thursday night as it was so late but it was one of the most special nights in my life. I’m so proud of all my QOH family. The work you continue to do is truly a gift from God.

I will close with – one of the band members came up to me and said, “You know I saw the Statue of Liberty and got to go inside and it’s very special to me. How did you know only one other person knew that my quilt had the Statue of Liberty all over it.” I told her God knew and he helps me with that.

I will write more about the concert and the quilts. We are landing soon – almost home.

God bless
Gail
Women’s Army Corps Band 69-72

Taps

Tonight is the Women’s Army Corp Band’s Banquet.  In honor of all the WAC Band Sisters who were lost in the last two years, taps was played and Ten Sisters were honored.

God Bless them all
Jan

 

Band Practice

Today we started our first practice at 0900 and we were to be in the Chapel and not be late. We had a nice breakfast at the hotel with everyone and then headed to the Chapel. I think they wanted us to stay awake because it was so cold in there. Everyone had jackets on. Debbie and Flo were going to relax and listen so they sat out in the pews. We started warming up and all of a sudden we heard yipping. We all laughed then the next thing I see is Debbie and Flo rescuing a little girl. Her name is Diva and she is 5 years old, has crippled legs from birth and belongs to one of our saxophone players. They watched her all during practice and that Diva loved every minute of it. Leave it to those two animal lovers.

We got our break for lunch at 11:00 so we went to Zaxby’s and had great chicken salad. Then I took the girls on a tour of Anniston and yes, they found a fabric shop. We did find some Air Force panels. So now those two have been to 2 fabric shops. We headed back to the base and went to our big PX – about as big as Burger King in Valley Springs, but they found me a cool Army jacket. We finished practice at 3:00, went back to the room and actually rested. We had a great dinner at Elfinias. I had fried artichoke hearts – best I have ever had.

You will see a picture collage of a quilt that was awarded to our Director, Mona Meltz.  She had been our Director for 17 years. She is now 86 and lives in Appleton, WI. Three of our members went and presented it to her in person. I love the smile. This lady meant so much to so many of us in the band. They told me she was so thrilled with the quilt – you can see it hanging on her wall.

We are excited for our banquet tomorrow night and will keep you posted. It is so great to be able to see each other and play together. We never miss a beat even after two years from our last reunion.

Stay tuned and God bless,
Gail

WAC Band Mixer

We had a busy day helping set up chairs in the Chapel and decorate the room for the mixer. Deb and Flo I think are amazed at all our women veterans and how excited we are to see each other. I ran the raffle with Debbie and Flo’s help – we must have had 50 raffle prizes. And, the 2 of them won about 5 each. We gave out 3 quilts. Our first was to a retired Women’s Army Corps Nurse, Peggy; the second to Betty, also a retired Women’s Army Corps veteran; and the last was to a Command Sergeant Major of the Women’s Army Corps. All three veterans were so thankful for their quilts. Because our raffle was so big, my voice got hoarse – everyone liked that. We had good eats and received goodie bags.

Then I heard everyone warming up. “Gail, get your horn, we’re practicing,” so off I went. There are quite a few videos on Facebook of us playing jazz music. I know it surprised Debbie and Flo but they enjoyed it. Have to be to practice at 0900 so the girls are getting a taste of Army life. They will be going with me. It is nice to have family with me and all my sisters are asking who they are.

Before I close for the night, Denise, who is active duty Army, got home from Iraq to film everything for us. She told Flo and I how much her QOH she took to Iraq with her meant and how she had to stuffed it into a small box to carry it with her. She said she had stuffed her pockets full of everything else just so she could take her quilt. Now ladies and gents, that says so much about our quilts.

I will keep you all posted – actually hitting the bed early.
Take care and God Bless.
Gail

Ruby Falls, Rock City Alabama

We left Nashville, TN early this morning and headed to Ruby Falls on top of Lookout Mountain. We really didn’t know what we were going to see. We bought our tickets and before we knew it, we were in an elevator going down 260 feet underground. That was a little nervy – 12 people packed in an elevator and no windows. When we stepped out into the tunnel, it was rock, solid rock. They should have told us we were going to walk ½ mile in tiny spaces, stairs up, down, all around, but it was really awesome to see the formations. We had a guide who thought he was a comedian making it fun. When we got to the Falls, it was beautiful and so worth it. We had reached 1,000 feet underground. Then we walked ½ mile back out. We were hungry and tired but really enjoyed it.

Then we went to Rock City to see the point on the mountain where you can see 7 States. It was so beautiful. I hope you enjoy the pictures. It was nice to take our time and try and be normal tourists for a change. My folks came to visit me in 1970 when I was stationed in Alabama and we went to Rock City. I’ve always wanted to come back.

We arrived at our hotel at 3:30pm and right off met 2 of my WAC sisters with hugs all around. We are all excited to see each other and spend time together.

Our funniest story was tonight – we went to get dinner and the girls decided they wanted Dairy Queen (DQ) like what I had the other day for lunch. They advertised $5.00 for a meal of chicken strips, fries, drink and a sundae. Check the picture – Flo was overloaded with food. Think she ate it all. I just couldn’t pass up that shot.

Stay tuned for more to come.
God Bless
Gail