Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quilts for Wounded Troops

“Like a mother's loving arms, this quilt is our hug for our hero—a gift of thanks for protecting America. It expresses our gratitude, love, respect, and honor to forever hold and comfort you."

This is the greeting sewn on the back of the quilt that Staff Sergeant Logan Ballew of Norman, OK received upon arriving at the Bethesda Military Hospital in August of 2006.

Disarming a roadside bomb in Iraq, Logan Ballew received the impact of the bomb when it exploded. The local military hospital personnel feared Logan might die. They waited three days to notify Logan’s parents, not knowing whether they would be sending him back home in a body bag or to a hospital.

Logan arrived two days later in Bethesda where a quilt made by a Quilts of Valor volunteer welcomed him. Arnold and Joan Ballew flew from Edmond, Oklahoma to Bethesda to keep bedside vigil.

Marine Mom Joan had made many quilts through Quilts for Injured Soldiers. “We created these quilts as ‘Hugs for Our Heroes’ to give them hope and peace for their road ahead. A little piece of me goes out with each quilt I make,” Joan explained. Joan’s reward for her many hours of volunteer work comes from the Thank Yous received from wounded soldiers like this one: “When I get scared with the memories of war, I curl up in my quilt and the nightmares go away. It makes me proud to be a soldier, knowing Americans really care. There’s so much love and a prayer in every stitch.”

One of the first questions Joan asked Logan was if he had received a quilt. When Joan asked what he thought of the gift, Logan expressed how humbled, honored, and encouraged he felt to receive such a treasure. “ It was a source of strength and comfort that lifted my spirits and warmed my heart. I knew my service was appreciated and not in vain.”

Joan excitedly unfolded Logan’s bright quilt and caressed the stitches of comfort some volunteer quilter had lovingly taken. When Joan emailed the guild to thank them, she instantly bonded with the woman who made Logan’s quilt. “She became my new buddy when I most needed a friend to share my feelings of loneliness and fear while sitting at my son’s bedside.”

After fourteen months of painful physical therapy, progressing from wheel chair to walker to cane, Logan now walks with a slight limp with the help of a leg brace. Permanent nerve damage in his leg shattered Logan’s career dreams of spending his life in the Marines. When he gets discouraged, Logan finds comfort and hope for his future by snuggling up in his quilted hug. Logan is now adjusting well to civilian life with his part-time job in cabinetry in Norman, Oklahoma.

Joan’s 22” portrait quilt of her marine son, using the zipper, fabric and buttons from his uniform, won a blue ribbon in Buckboard Quilts' God Bless America Quilt Exhibit which is touring the U.S. for three years with profits going to provide more of these healing quilts for soldiers.

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