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A Busy December

December started with the Legion of Valor Christmas Party on December 7th, a day that will never be forgotten. It is one more day veterans fought for our freedom. Sometimes I often wonder why our veterans are only thought about on special days instead of all year long. We honored 8 veterans with quilts. Our first two were Purple Heart recipients, both very taken by their quilts. Our last was for Denny, a Vietnam veteran. He wanted to give his quilt to a veteran he had been visiting in a VA home and had no family. We told him we would get him a quilt that he could give to his friend.

Quilts of Honor is always thinking of our veterans. I have watched as our QOH Chapters go the extra mile to get their quilts to the veterans, some driving miles just to make sure they honor the veteran. That is dedication and passion for our veterans. I am so proud of all of our QOH Chapters.

On December 10th, we went to the Lions Club to honor two veterans, both Operation Enduring Freedom. We had been trying to award the first quilt for over 2 years and never gave up, a Marine who now manages a bank. Our second quit recipient was for a veteran injured by an EOD blast. He has had over 18 surgeries on his head and has lost his eye but he has the best attitude. He told us his girlfriend stood by him through it all. They got married while he was having surgeries so she would be able to help him. They have been together 11 years and have 2 children. After he received his quilt he came up and said, “I have all kinds of medals but this quilt is the best.” Our last quilt of the night went to a Vietnam veteran no one knew or had put him in for one. We had an extra quilt in the truck so Flo fixed it up and we surprised him and all the guys when we called his name. He fought back tears big time. After the presentations, they passed the hat and we received over $1,700 – what a great night! The Linden Lions rock.

Then it was time for my VA appointment where I gave a female a quilt – she loved it. We then drove to Berkeley to present a quilt to a Gulf War veteran. I knew about this veteran for a couple of years and wanted to reach out. AnnMarie, my friend from Virginia, had reached out to him and called me and said let’s meet there and you can give him a quilt. So, AnnMarie, Tiffany and Jimmers drove straight from the airport and we met them at Ehren’s house in Berkeley. Man, how crazy are the roads in Berkeley. Every time we turned around there was another roundabout or one way street. Almost drove me crazy getting there.

We finally arrived and Ehren had no idea who we were or why we were there. Ehren had been featured in Craft in America, a special called SERVICE, in 2014. I was in the same special. Since that time I have always wanted to meet Ehren. He makes pottery mugs and expresses what he feels in his pottery and it helps his PTSD. He then gives the mugs to veterans or those suffering from PTSD. He has given over 22,000 mugs.

The first thing we did as we got in the door, was to award Ehren his quilt. He said that he had heard about the quilts but never thought he would get one. Ehren, a Marine from the Gulf War, said he didn’t come back the same and he wanted to make a difference. He had mugs already made and told me to pick out one, please take one. They were all different and you could tell they each had a story. Ehren lives right in the middle of Berkeley but his backyard was a garden that looked like a jungle – enjoy the pictures.

We got home that night by GPS and Waze taking us on the backroads through Berkeley. Boy, was that an experience. We received texts all the way home – “thank you for the quilt; It’s beautiful; everyone loves it.” It was a great night. We got to meet up with friends from Virginia and award a quilt.

We had our December Workshop and Christmas luncheon on the 18th. 47 volunteers attended and shared what they were thankful for this Christmas. It was pretty special as they always ended with how special Quilts of Honor is to them. Bonnie stood up and asked the volunteers to take up a donation for QOH and for all Gail give us. They passed a hat and by the time the day was done, they had collected over $1,000. This, to me, was a Christmas Miracle. The love of the group and the sharing, I can still see their faces as they shared. I am so proud of our QOH Family.

The month of December was very special but then again, every month is special with Quilts of Honor. Our volunteers are one of a kind with great passion for our veterans.   Thank you to everyone who support us in any way.

Merry Christmas and God’s blessings,

Gail

 

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Our Two Sentinels, Our Captain Chauffeur, Carl and Jeanine, Gail and Flo

Today was another one for the books. Thank you Catherine for setting up tours for us. We got introduced to Carla, our Point of Contact, and who became our tour guide. What a blessing Carla was. She arrived to pick us up with a Captain driving a van. He was in the United States Army and had been deployed with 10th Mountain before coming to the 3rd Guard. I kept saying that I couldn’t believe we were being chauffeured by a Captain in the United States Army.

Our first tour was to watch the Sentinels and Changing of the Guard. They let us go where the Press get to stand – boy were we close. It was hot, really hot, 90 something so we stayed in the shade. It was exciting to be so close. After The Changing of the Guard, we got to go down under the tomb. Our Sentinel explained so many different, interesting things and what each thing meant. The height requirements for Sentinels starts at 5’ 10”. Each Sentinel receives a wooden flag and on the back they write how many walks they have made. Our Sentinel had 400 walks and that’s a lot. He had been assigned for 20 months. They work 26 hours on; 30 minutes is their walk in summer and one hour walk in the winter. We then got to go downstairs and through the door to meet the Sentinels in their Guard room. There must have been 7 of them. They all stood up and shook our hands. Carla told them we were Quilts of Honor and the guys said, “Where’s our quilts?” All were nice guys. One was practicing in front of a mirror to see if he had the right stance. During the night they wear their fatigues and can walk the perimeter. They let us hold their night rifle. Think how we felt holding that gun that walked so many walks. We were very honored to be able to have the opportunity to meet these heroes.

Next we got a riding tour of the houses and who lives at Fort Myer. Our last tour was the stables with the Caissons. Of course I was like a little kid – couldn’t wait to pet the horses. We were introduced to Specialist Nelson who gave us a tour and explained how they polished and dyed the saddles. Their mornings start at 4:30am and they wash the horses for one hour. We were standing in the stables when in comes the horses for the evening with their riders. It was an awesome sight. The Caissons were right behind them. You will see a picture of a star on the side of the Caisson – it was so shinny. Our last stop was SGT York, the horse that carried President Reagan. SGT York is 29 years old and will retire and be buried at Fort Myer.

We finally ended our afternoon surprising Carla, our Guide. She is a veteran of the US Army and served 9 years but I’ll tell you this, she knows everything about the Sentinels and the Old Guard. We were blessed to have her guide us – we felt like celebrities.

We started home and ended up stopping for Mexican food with Flan for dessert. Tomorrow I am sure will bring more adventures so stay tuned . . . . . . . . .

God Bless
Gail

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Fort Belvoir/Alexandria

We are back again and this time we have many missions. Today was our first day and we gave out a Quilt before lunch. We traveled to Fort Belvoir to award a Quilt to Dr. Greene, an Air Force veteran for twelve years and is now working with patients with PTSD.

We met AnneMarie and Tiffany and surprised Dr. Greene with her Quilt. You could see the emotions in her face and she kept thanking us. It is so awesome to award these Quilts to female veterans especially those who have given so much and help veterans every day and never get thanked. We spent some time having coffee and chatting before it was time for Flo to hit the Fort Belvoir Post Exchange, one of the biggest in the United States.

After we left Fort Belvoir, we headed to Mt. Vernon’s gift shop for our annual Christmas ornament shopping. It was 93 here today until we had Boomers and Bangers. We did hit our favorite bakery before heading back to “our mansion” away from home – Carl and Jeanine’s house. We enjoyed an evening on the porch watching the thunder and lightning. We were all sitting there when thunder hit and if you ask Flo, it hit under her chair. She jumped a mile and told Jeanine, “I think we can watch from inside.” We all laughed on that one. Jeanine made a great meal and the picture is for our crew that we are missing – they all love Jeanine’s cooking.

Tomorrow we are heading to Arlington so we should really have some stories. We have two tours scheduled at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Stay tuned for more . . . . . . . . . . . .

God’s Blessings
Gail

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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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