Not all heroes wear capes, but the Quilts of Valor Foundation showed how some heroes wear quilts.
Col. Tina L. Kirkpatrick, commander, 475th Quartermaster Group, U.S. Army Reserve, received a custom-made quilt during a public display of appreciation conducted Nov. 3, 2022, at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.
“It’s an overwhelming experience to receive a quilt from the very person who made it,” said Kirkpatrick, who, in her civilian capacity, serves as the suicide prevention program manager for the 75th Innovation Command. “The feelings of comfort, support and gratitude literally embraced me with fabric sewn by love and generosity.”
Since 2003, the Quilts of Valor Foundation has covered veterans and service members touched by war with handmade quilts made by one of more than 10,000 Foundation members spread throughout the country. The Foundation achieved a major milestone when it produced its 300,000th quilt in April 2022.
“Not everyone answers the call to serve our country,” said Lori Thompson, executive director, Quilts of Valor Foundation. “… We’ll never know exactly what each veteran experiences and how they are touched by war, but we can welcome our veterans home, support them and their families, and thank them for their service whenever possible.”
Donna Swanson, New Hampshire state coordinator, Quilts of Valor, presided over the ceremony minutes after the exhibit halls opened on the first day of the International Quilt Festival, a four-day convention that attracts more than 50,000 visitors every year.
“Our quilters know that freedom is not free,” said Swanson, whose husband served in the Vietnam War and whose sons currently serve in the Army and Marine Corps. “… This quilt is meant to say thank you for your sacrifice … It is meant to comfort you and to remind you that, although your family and friends cannot be with you at all times, you are forever in our thoughts and prayers.”
Swanson first met Kirkpatrick in September at the Chicago Midway Airport United States Overseas Center as they awaited to board their respective connecting flights.
“I was on my way to a wedding and [Kirkpatrick] was on her way to a change-of-command ceremony,” said Swanson, who has increased the number of Quilts of Valor sewing clubs in New Hampshire from two to six in four years. “She had never heard of Quilts of Valor, but, before we left the USO, she submitted an online application to receive one.”
In addition to keeping cozy snuggling with her handmade gift of honor, Kirkpatrick sees opportunities to integrate quilting into her resiliency program at the 75th Innovation Command.
“The mental and emotional benefits of art therapy offer a powerful addition to a Soldier’s resiliency toolkit,” said Kirkpatrick. “I love to provide practical applications of art therapy during the 75th IC’s Battle Assemblies. Each Soldier could sew a small piece of fabric, and together they could create a quilt that visualizes their teamwork, resilience and creativity.”
“Quilts are a catalyst for healing,” said Swanson, who currently resides in Nashua, N.H. “They put smiles on people’s faces. Knowing people are happy when I show up and even happier when I leave them with their newly received quilts is the best part about my job.”
Learn how Quilts of Valor can honor veterans in your local community at www.qovf.org.