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This wall is an experience that anyone involved in working the wall ever forgets. You hear the stories of so many that are heart wrenching. Wisconsin East Quilts of Honor had many of the same experiences and gave out 93 Quilts. We gave out 52 Quilts but we didn’t have the crowds that we had two years ago. The veterans we reached were so worth it. I’m going to try and relay some of our experiences.

We setup on Thursday. Flo, Jan, Willene, Jackie, and myself got there at 10:00 am and opening of the wall wasn’t until 3:00 pm so we took our time getting the pop-ups, tables and goodies to sell ready. It wasn’t minutes before one of the guys said, “Gail, I got a vet that needs a quilt.” So our day began. Our first quilt was a Female Marine Veteran from Operation Enduring Freedom. When I reached for her hand and thanked her, her face became taunt, they when the quilt came out she started to cry. She hugged me crying and hugged most everyone in the booth. She was very emotional and as she walked around the Park, people saw her crying. She was supposed to read names on the wall and she told them she couldn’t do it. She has much healing to do but the Quilt is a start.

Our second Quilt was to a Vietnam nurse. When her Quilt came out, her face was full of surprise then she said, “You are going to make me cry.” So our first two quilts were given to female veterans, a first for us. We all said that we didn’t think on set-up day, we would be giving Quilts then up comes Art, a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart putting himself in harm’s way with a butterfly bomb.

Next was Nomie, a Vietnam veteran, gunner in a helicopter, and they were in so much danger in Vietnam. Gilbert was an Army grunt on the ground, as he called it, in Vietnam. Then came Eric a Coast Guard veteran who came up to the booth and said, “I’m a veteran of Vietnam and I deserve a quilt.” That kinda took us all back in the booth as you know most veterans never feel they deserve a quilt. Our last for the day was to Jose, from Iraq Enduring Freedom. Jose was at the wall counseling veterans. He said that he felt so honored to receive a quilt. So day one was quite a success – more than we expected.

Day two started at 9:00 am. We barely got set up when Ed walked up to the booth. We started talking and discovered that he was in the infantry in Vietnam, so out went the first Quilt. Our second for the day was something we all in the booth will remember. His name is Larry. He was with his dog Binge. He had his Vietnam hat on so we walked over and pulled out a quilt and walked to him. I took his hand, thanked him for his sacrifice and he grabbed onto me crying and kept saying, “I can’t believe this.” He was so happy and said he would be right back. He came back with a book he wrote, Binge the Bear Killer, then he told us the story of how a bear mauled him in the mountains and Binge saved him by biting the back of the bear’s legs so Larry could get free. Everyone in the booth got a signed book. Larry must have come back 10 times that day to see us and thank us. Then Flo ran into an old friend that Johnny and she used to know. Steve had served 30 years in the Army so Flo presented him with a Quilt. His smile went for miles. Then all of a sudden, 3 different guys from different directions walked up to the booth. They didn’t know each other but they all started asking each other where they had served. All three had been in Vietnam, all Army guys, so we presented all three at once. Two out of the three said they were shocked that we would give them a Quilt. Next came Jerry, Army, he repaired radio equipment in Vietnam. Around the corner came Gordon, Navy, and what most people called the brown water Navy as they went down the canals of Vietnam. Many of those veterans suffer from Agent Orange.

By this time it’s almost lunch when Manuel Guzman, who was scheduled to come to the booth, arrived with two of his high school friends that he was going to surprise. His wife, Bonnie, pieced the quilts and I quilted them so we could make it special for these friends, Robin and Vincent. Both guys were so surprised. Bonnie missed it but we got great pictures so she could see. Then we met Rabbit, Army 101st Airborne, Vietnam. I think he is still surprised about his Quilt. Next was one of my favorites – his name is Taco. He walked up to the booth and I start chatting and signal for a Quilt. When I gave him that quilt he grabbed ahold and cried and cried and said he couldn’t believe it. I was getting nervous that he wasn’t going to let go but he was happy. Then we got a Green Beret. I asked him what he did and when he said Green Beret the guys around said, “That’s a Green Beret.”

Then Louis asks me, “Gail, have you seen those guys on the wall that are helping everyone to find names?” I told him no so he proceeds to tell me their story. They go as often as they can afford to help at the Moving Vietnam Wall. Jerry was Army, Vietnam veteran; Dennis, Air Force, Vietnam veteran. Louie, Becky and Flo all walked over to the Wall and presented them with Quilts. They were pretty much speechless but later they came and thanked us for their Quilts. What dedication – we named them the Vietnam Wall Groupies. Last for the day were two female veterans. The husband of one asked about the quilts and we told him we provide for combat veterans and he proudly said that both women were combat veterans. So both received Quilts and their smiles were so big I knew we had done good. Made my day to honor current Operation Enduring Freedom females.

Saturday we started with one of the Karl Ross guys who we had planned on surprising. First, his family was waiting so Arthur walks up to the booth and asks if we needed to see him. His family was hiding in the back and when I gave him the Quilt his face lit up. Daniel was our next Vietnam Army veteran. He served in the big red one and received a Silver Star. We gave him a Quilt and he came back and showed Becky his orders on the Silver Star and Becky got to keep it. Saturday was pretty slow but Corky, a Navy Vietnam veteran and friend of ours from the Delta A’s Car Club, was meeting his brother who had come in from Missouri. Richard served in the Army in Vietnam so we presented him with a Quilt. It was so cute and Corky was so proud that we gave his brother a Quilt. Then came Glen, Army Ranger, wounded in Somalia. He came up to the booth and asked if he could have a QOH bag and how much did the quilts cost. I told him you can’t buy them so we then presented him a Quilt.

Later, I am standing in the booth looking out when I see a Vietnam veteran looking so sad and standing back. I walked out to him and started a conversation. He was visibly shaken and I signaled to Flo to get a Quilt and when we presented it to him he just brook down crying so hard. He said that he had never worn his Vietnam hat before today. He had been in Vietnam, had a good job, got in a fight and the next thing he knew he was on the front lines. He hadn’t come to terms with any of his Vietnam memories. All I can hope is that he will somehow heal.

Then we had the honor of awarding Paul, a Valley Springs local who had come to the Wall, a Quilt. Paul served in the Navy in the brown water. When we presented him his Quilt, he couldn’t look up. Tears rolled down his face but eventually he was happy for his Quilt. Our last one of the day on Saturday was Jennifer, a USMC CH46 Crew Chief. She was this little person in height but she was a combat veteran and I know she could hold her own.

Sunday was our last day and with such a slow crowd on Saturday, we all wondered what Sunday was going to be like. Well, we gave out 16 Quilts. It was busy until late afternoon. The crew was great all weekend. The ladies bound quilts while we worked the booth. We gave out two female veterans so our total was 7 female veterans, a record to find that many. One was retired from the Navy. We had one Vietnam veteran who was in very bad shape but his face lit up when we gave him his Quilt. We gave a Quilt to Lee, a Vietnam veteran. He and his wife were not in the best of health but manned the front gate for four days in the hot sun – what volunteers they were.

The only mishap was the new truck – it doesn’t need a key to start it especially when Flo has a set in her pocket, so we get to the trailer the last day and Gail doesn’t have her keys to unlock it so Flo made a trip to Harbor Freight for bolt cutters – not bad for 4 days.

I want to thank all the volunteers. You make my life blessed to have you in it and to be such hard working, caring volunteers. Special thanks to our new friend, Sandy, who spoiled the crew with cookies, big big cookies and coffee and apple turnovers.

We ended up awarding 52 Quilts and we all said everyone needed them. We all came away with feelings of having done a good job. I did get to play Taps one night as they retired the colors which was an honor.

Our next adventure will be to Brainerd, Minnesota to meet our QOH Chapter. Flo and Rue will keep me company.  The Group has a ceremony planned, plus showing us Minnesota life. I know you all can’t wait to hear about this adventure.

Want to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July. Don’t forget all those defending our freedom.

God’s blessings
Gail

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What a special time we had at the Brass Conference. We listened to the Army Quintet, first give women put together from different Army Bands. Four of us from the Women’s Army Corps Band were present and they had us stand for recognition as they said we broke the barriers for them – pretty big honor for us. We all took pictures together then we went to see the music vendors. Oh my, I have never seen so many trumpets and mouth pieces – it was like a candy store for us. When we saw the price tags we went into shock so I’ll just look at the pictures of the trumpets and dream. Everywhere we went you heard horns blowing – it sure was noisy. Rue did good but she was happy when we left. Everywhere we went people stopped to ask about Rue. She even got her picture taken by the photographer. One guy said that he had never seen a service dog there.

The concert was to start at 7:30pm so we got there at 7:00 to meet the IWBC President, Joanna Hersey who was our contact. She told us we would set in the front row and midway through the concert she would call me up. Flo and I sat down and our sisters went up to where they could hear better. When those ladies started playing, WOW, it was amazing. They were so good. It brought back so many memories – they are carrying on our legacy – now that is pretty cool.

Joanna came to the mic and said she had a surprise and would I come up. When I got up there I told them who I was and what we did and that I was a Women’s Army Corps Band trumpet player and they started clapping. I told them that boy had it changed from when we played as we had 1 mouth piece and 1 horn. They all broke out laughing – now they have many of both.

The first quilt came out and the audience went nuts. The second one, the recipient was very taken and her expression shows it. She said her mom is a quilter and can’t wait to show her. They all thanked me and I was thanking them. I was so proud that I could thank active duty female band members.

So many people came up to us afterwards saying how beautiful the quilts were and what a nice thing we did. They had a professional photographer who took pictures and sent them to us. It was so nice that she gave us the photos – hope you enjoy them. By the time the concert was over it was our bedtime but we were happily tired after such a great day and evening.

Our second day was a day off before we start home. We got to see Old Town Scottsdale where, again, Rue was the most popular. I found a life size Remington I decided Dad could buy for me so I took the picture for him. When we got back to the house we decided the TV really wasn’t big enough for us to see – ha – it’s unreal. We went for a ride on the pontoon boat that belonged to the house and saw this cool Studebaker that they made into a boat. It’s been a short visit but a good one. Spent time with my Band sisters, gave out some very deserving quilts.

We start home on Saturday hoping Memorial weekend traffic doesn’t drive us crazy. Thank you to all who are holding the fort down at home.

Stay tuned . . . . . . . . . . . . .

God’s blessings,
Gail

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RIP Donna Johnson, May 1931 – May 2019

There are all kinds of Mothers. There are those who birthed you, there are adopted mothers and those who came into your life. I was one of the lucky ones. My second mom, as I call her, and I met some 40 years ago. I had no idea then how she would play a part in my life. Her daughter and I became best friends and our birthdays are 6 months apart, so I gained a sister also. I also gained a nana and gramps who were her folks. They all lived on a ranch and I didn’t live far away. I got to spend a lot of time on the ranch. Nana accepted me and taught me how to make her pies which were the best. So, when I started quilting she was so happy. That was one of her hobbies. She would piece by hand and I would quilt them.

I saw the love my second mom had for her mom and how much my second mom loved her daughter. I saw all the traditions they did together – made crafts, cooked together, exchanged recipes, and through all this I got to be a part of it all.

For many years we lived close. We would spend many weekends together. Mom decided to get goats. They were already grown so they had their challenges but mom loved them. Before long I did too, even to this day I have goats.

They had to move off the ranch so they moved to Sacramento and later to Gardnerville, Nevada. This made it hard for our visits in person but we lived on phone calls and email. I always knew she was there and I believed she would live to be 99 years old like Nana. Mom was my biggest supporter. She was one of Quilts of Honor’s biggest supporters, too. She loved reading the Blog and when she couldn’t see it, her daughter would read it to her.

When mom fell and broke her hip, it was downhill from then on. Her daughter was always there day after day even wiping away her tears as mom could barely see from losing her site.

This weekend being Mother’s Day, you need to hug your moms tight and thank them for the love they share with you and for all they have taught you and the many traditions they bring to your family just like quilting has been handed down through generations.

So I dedicate this Blog to my second Mom for all the love she gave me. I will miss her dearly but she will be in my heart.

To all of our Mothers – Happy Mother’s Day.

God’s blessings to you all.
Gail

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Merry Christmas

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Well, we said our goodbyes to Cousin Paul and Randy. What a great time we had. It was special to spend time with family. They outdid themselves making everything so nice for us. We felt special being treated so well.

When we left we had to make our Starbucks stop but we wanted to get down the road a bit. Our first stop was a service center. Boy, are these different – they have all these eating places in one building. We were driving in circles looking for Starbucks until we figured it out – you just can’t take country to the city. We needed gas so I pull into the station and you can’t pump your own gas, an attendant has to pump it. I couldn’t believe it so I asked the attendant if I could take his picture and that we were from California and this doesn’t happen to us, plus, gas was $2.99.

Back on the road again and I told the girls we gotta get taffy for Jan. We had been looking all over New York and couldn’t find any. I kept asking Randy, “don’t you have taffy” and he said “you won’t find it here.” You can’t tell us we can’t find something so out came the map and we detoured to New Jersey Shores. We ended up in Asbury Park. It looked so cool and had a boardwalk and a big old Art Deco building that took you back to the 1930’s.

First we had to go see the Atlantic Ocean so Debbie, Flo and Rita could put their feet in the ocean. The first wave wiped out Debbie’s pant leg, that made us laugh because she had one pant leg up and the other down. We asked people if they knew where we could get taffy – go down this way, no go down that way. Debbie looks at her iPhone and says down this way. Rita and Debbie start walking and Flo and I drove the car to the other end of the beach. Guess what, no taffy. By this time we’re getting frustrated. The time was getting late so we decided we had to get back on the road when Rita says there is one 8 miles away. U-turn! We head to Spring Lake, New Jersey following the GPS. We get into this cute little town, find a parking place, and it’s right in front of where we parked. We go in and ask if they had any banana taffy. They had a mix so we bought 2 boxes, freshly made, so Rita could trade and give us her banana. We are somewhat happy we got taffy and are back on the road. We saw that the taffy isn’t marked with the flavors so how are we going to know what to give Jan. Ha, I said we taste test each color, so Flo starts testing and we all agreed its soft taffy with good flavor but not many bananas. The moral to this story, we will go just about anywhere to get taffy for Jan.

We got to see some great sites going on our detours and back roads. Our drive took us a little longer but we decided we needed another stop so we found a service center. The first store we walk into has taffy. I start cracking up but guess what, no banana.

After all that, we got to Jeanine and Carl’s at 3:30 pm. Carl got to Jeanine’s first and we were glad to see him. We have all decided to call him Eddie – that is his other nickname – and having two Carl’s would drive us crazy. We sat on the front porch and visited. I got a chance to see the Dogwood in bloom and her beautiful Peonies. The weather is beautiful – in the 80s.

We picked up Rick and Val and came back to have dinner on the patio it was so nice. Jeanine made a great stew. It is great to be back with our second family. We were making conversation at dinner and someone asked how many U-turns had we made. Rita said not many today and I said yes sir, I made an 8 mile one. They all laughed but it was the truth – I couldn’t get off the darn Express Way.

We have done pretty good in our detours and I’d say the girls are about to owe me – they got a quilt shop and got to stick their feet in the Atlantic Ocean. Tomorrow night we have our first quilt ceremony so don’t know if you will get a long Blog but we will put up something.

Stay tuned – I’m sure we will have more adventures.
Gail

 

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We had a great dinner last night at Ted’s Montana Grill and then headed to Times Square to see everything. We finished our last night in Times Square. We walked down and it was like daylight from all the digital shows being shown on all the screens – there were so many. We got Junior’s cheesecake and took it back to the room after stopping at the M&M’s store, 3 Christmas stores, and two gift shops. We walked over 10,019 steps, over 5 miles again.

This morning we started walking to the subway to go see the Statue of Liberty. My legs were sure wore out but we just kept going. We rode past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.. On the ride back and forth we saw the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which is the longest span type bridge built in the 1960s. We saw the Brooklyn Bridge and the Trade Center from the Ferry – beautiful – and the weather today was sunny and in the 70s.

When we finished with Lady Liberty we headed for the 911 Memorial. Paul, Flo and I took the subway and Randy, Rita and Debbie walked. They had over 10,000 steps when they got to us. Glad I didn’t go.

We met at St. Paul’s Church which is directly across from where the towers were. When the towers went down, the church and graveyard made it. There was debris all over the cemetery and it was used for the rescuers for over two years. The Bell in the picture was made by the same people who made our Liberty Bell and was given to the church after 911 – they ring it every year on 911.

We went to the Oculus which has spears reaching to the sky. Inside there are three floors with all kinds of stores. We walked across the street to see the Memorial Pools, the actual footprints of where the towers had resided. Paul and I found security and asked if I could play taps. He told us we could call the office, which we did, and finally got someone but she said they have a designated day and it wasn’t until May 17th. She said she would take my name and I told her never mind and hung up. The security guard was an Army veteran and he said if I went over behind the barrier, I could play taps. So, we moved right behind the barrier, got my bugle out and I hit it. I couldn’t see what they were doing but what was important to me was I wanted to play taps so I just played. I wanted those people who lost their lives to be honored. I didn’t get arrested but one guard was watching me. My crew was there watching and we all accomplished our mission.

Then we went to tour the 911 Memorial. Parts of the building are in the Museum. We saw the bent metal piling, a fire truck with hardly anything left on it. We saw the Survivor Tree that lived through the collapse of the Towers. They took it to a nursery and they baby sat it and it’s now planted again by the 911 Memorial. It’s a huge museum – we went over 13,000 steps again today and these old lady legs are hurting.

We had dinner at the Cosmic Diner. We were starving, we hadn’t eaten all day and walked our breakfast off. We rode the train back to New Jersey and will spend the night and head to DC in the morning. My bugle was carried all over New York but happy I got to play there. We had a long busy day but loved seeing so much. We have enjoyed my cousins and all we accomplished seeing New York. We will see what tomorrow will bring.

We get to see our other family, Carl and Jeanine, and meet up with the rest of the crew.
God bless and stay tuned. . . . . . . . . . . .
Gail

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On the Road Again

We are off again – destination Washington, DC with a detour to New York to spend some time with my cousin who has a birthday today. We are excited to hopefully see the Statue of Liberty up close and personal.

You know how I have all of us wear shirts alike? We had our Quilts of Honor sweatshirts on and a lady in line, where we checked our luggage, told us, that’s great what you do. Then she followed us to the elevator and asked if she could give us a donation and handed us a $20 bill. We thanked her and explained that we were all volunteers and she said that means even more.

This morning wasn’t too good for Flo. She spilled her coffee on her clean pants then when her backpack went through security, she got a big grease spot on it. Debbie and Rita bought a spot remover for Flo’s backpack so now she is happy again. Doesn’t take much to please this crew and they all have each other’s backs. Rita used her makeup “do-da” to clean Flo’s backpack and we sure hope she doesn’t use that on her face during the trip.

It was great to see the Guide Dogs training at the airport but made me sad. My Rue is home but I know she is happy at her Auntie’s house.

We fly to St. Louis with a layover, then on to DC, rent a car, and head to Edgewood where we will spend the night before we end up in Morristown, NJ. We will keep you posted on our adventures.

God bless and stay tuned . . . . . . . . .
Gail

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