Good Morning Everyone,
The quilts poured in to Knoxville on June 11, 2009. The final count was 86. The trailer was so full by the time Catherine and Gail got here, that they wondered where everything was going to go. The cameras from three television stations were rolling, the reporters had their mics turned on. The city and country mayors declared Thursday, “Quilts of Valor Day”. Catherine got to ride in the first humvee in their escort by the 278th. (Her son had ridden in a similar vehicle in Iraq.) Before all the events were over, they had presented three Quilts of Valor on Thursday and one on Friday in Tellico Village. It was some of the best media coverage they received during the entire trip, including at Camp Lejeune.
Helping to hand out the quilts to 1200 members of the 3/8 was a thrill to us: my husband, Gene (USN Retired), and me. A special thanks goes to Laurens Tullock, and Cornerstone Foundation, who paid for the Ackermann Public Relations Firm to work on the project, Mike Cohen of Ackermann PR and Kyleleen Casteel, Manager of Comfort Inn and Suites at Cedar Bluff. On the military side, thanks go to Commander Pontier, commanding officer of the Naval Operations Center in Knoxville, Major Murray with the 278th Tennessee National Guard, and Captain Easterling, commanding officer of the Marines Recruiting and Reserve Center in Knoxville. Without all of these wonderful people, the entire event would have been like just a small pebble dropped in a huge lake. Instead, we made a big splash in Tennessee.
More thanks go to those of you for all you did to make this possible. The quilters in McMinn, Bradley, Polk, Monroe and Meigs County, paid for the hotel rooms. The members of Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild in Western NC paid for the meeting room. A special thanks to Carlie Nichols, Janet Yuse and Regina Tullock for their help on Thursday.
I won’t tell you all the details, but I do want to share three short clips.
The moment that helped me understand how important these quilts are to the men and women who receive them: Captain Easterling lost three men, who were serving with the 3/8 in Afghanistan. He has been to Iraq two times. His schedule did not allow time for a QOV to be awarded to him, yet he rescheduled his Graduate Record exam so that he could receive a very special quilt presented to him by the President of the Tellico Village Quilters.
The moment that helped me totally understand why we are doing this: A Vietnam vet visited with us on Thursday afternoon. He had attended a convention of Vietnam vets in Washington recently and he had received a quilt (Not a QOV) during that convention. It was black and white and listed a people from the Jacksonville, NC area, who had been killed during Vietnam. It was my understanding that he currently works on projects assisting widows of the Vietnam war. We do not want another generation of warriors to suffer what our Vietnam vets have suffered. In many ways, our present day warriors are suffering. The suicide rate is at its highest, threatening to claim more victims than the war itself. Our quilts can ease some of that suffering and its something we must do.
The moment that helped me see how important these quilts are to members of the 3/8: QOV posted its first thank you letter on Tuesday from a member of the 3/8. He stated that the people were displaying their quilts with pride. That you could walk down the hall and see quilt after quilt on racks (That’s beds to those of you who don’t know military jargon.) If you know anything about the military, you know that this is totally uncharacteristic.
To paraphrase Catherine: We are “still at war” and we should “still be quilting”. We have not only this generation of warriors to cover, but once they are covered, we have a multitude of vets from other wars to cover. We hope you will make every effort to help. —-Beth