Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quilt Artists Cheer Troops in Baghdad

“The troops here in Baghdad are overjoyed to have your patriotic quilt exhibit. This quilted tribute to the troops boosted their morale and spirits when they were forced to spend Christmas thousands of miles away from home. Please thank each quilter for honoring us by creating these beautiful quilts.”

Larry (Gunny) Sizemore
Supervisor, Camp Striker Stables

What an honor to receive this e-mail from retired Gunnery Sgt. Sizemore. I sponsored the God Bless America Quilt Contest and Exhibits which are touring the nation for three years. The project pays tribute to our brave military heroes, helps mend our torn country and inspires patriotism. It was my objective to donate all profits from the $100 exhibit rental fees–which are free to military and veterans groups–to supply batting and fabric for the volunteers who provide quilt to wounded soldiers. I had no idea the exhibit would travel all the way to the battlefront.
Gunny went on to share that some of the men stayed for hours examining the quilts and taking pictures of themselves posed in front of the display. They loved reading the accompanying stories which thanked them for their service. Many soldiers shared their own foxhole tales, or the heroic acts of fathers and grandfathers who served in Vietnam and WWII. One colonel and several others even shed tears as the quilts evoked memories of our brave troops and lost loved ones. The VIPs thought it was a wonderful gift of heart-warming patchwork.
Since Camp Striker had been a 45th Infantry Division, Alma Johnson’s bold red and gold “Thunderbird” quilt touched the hearts of the artillery soldiers. By creating quilts to donate as fund-raisers for the veterans groups, this Chickasaw Native American from Shawnee, Oklahoma, honors many 45th Infantry veterans such as her husband and grandfather.
Gunny placed the POW flag above the “Peace Be With You” quilt made by Robin Corvin of Oklahoma City, and “Praying Hands” quilt by Barbara Freed of Okeene, Oklahoma. Kaye Hansen’s 22 inch copy of the full-sized “Independence Quilt,” which she made to permanently comfort the troops at the Stables, also told about her “Home of the Brave” quilts. These memorial quilts are gifted to the families of the fallen troops and replicate the 1860s bedroll quilts issued to Civil War soldiers.
Joan Ballew created a portrait quilt of her wounded marine son, Logan. He received a quilt from a Quilts of Valor volunteer honoring him when he was airlifted from Iraq to the Bethesda hospital. Joan incorporated zipper and buttons from Logan’s uniform, and used a fabric collage to replicate his brave facial features.
Gunny e-mailed me almost one hundred photos of the troops admiring the patriotic quilts. Following are a few of the comments penned by the troops in his journal.
Major Mick Kerr, Camp Striker Mayor wrote:
“I was in the office when the quilts arrived. As I helped unpack the precious package, I was captivated by the beauty of the quilts and the stories they told. Each quilt is unique and original. And each story is a “once in a lifetime memory.” Taken together, there is no better testament to the blessings bestowed upon our nation through the valiant service of its men and women. Looking at the quilts, it’s evident that “freedom is not free,” but no sacrifice is too enormous to keep our great nation free. I am proud to have served with this country’s finest—the American soldier.”
Major Mitchell N. Moss, Chattanooga, Tennessee, wrote that the quilts transported him back home to the hills of Tennessee. “Each quilt tells a story and reminds me of why we’re here and what we’re fighting for. None of us wants to be here. But the Lord directs the paths of all and there’s a reason for everything. Thanks for bringing a little touch of home to us during the holidays.”
SFC James Hine, Ashland, Kentucky wrote:
“Coming from the hills of Kentucky where Grandma’s quilts meant comfort and love, I feel the heart and soul that went into each and every quilt.”
Jennifer Fisher CPT/CRMF, 86th, Baghdad, Iraq:
“Thank you for your heartfelt efforts in preserving the memories of our fallen soldiers, and creating and displaying these quilts that artistically express the heart of our free nation.”
From SFC Thanus:
“Last night as I examined the quilts, a quote came to mind. ‘The love in your heart was not put there to stay, love is not love ‘til you give it away.’ Your quilts are just that—from your heart to ours. Thank you for caring.”
GySGT Sizemore, USMC, Retired and staff at Sizemore Stables:
“Your patriotic exhibit delighted thousands of troops passing daily through our transit facility at Camp Striker. They also gave much pleasure to the VIPs in the Victory Base Complex and the hundreds of the newly deployed and re-deployed troops. These troops came in and shared their stories and talked for hours as they viewed the display. I came from a military family of five generations who have always been proud to stand and serve Old Glory. Thanks so much for honoring us with these beautiful quilts. God bless you and yours. God bless America and our military family.”
When Gunny returned the God Bless America Quilt Exhibit, he included a surprise for me—a United States flag that had been flown in my honor over Camp Striker Baghdad, February 12, 2009. With it was a signed certificate authenticating the honor, along with commemorative coins from the Marines and Navy for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I’ve never felt so overwhelmed or humbled by such a gracious thank-you gift. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I touched the precious flag that had flown in the face of the enemy.See quilt photos, entry and rental information on . See slide show from Baghdad on: and

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