Veterans awarded Quilts of Valor
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Central Texas chapter of the Quilts of Valor awarded quilts to two woman veterans Saturday at the A Dash of Southern Charm Quilt Shop in Copperas Cove during the Quilts of Valor National Sew Day.
Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national organization with volunteers dedicated to making patriotic quilts that are awarded to veterans. A Quilt of Valor “is a quality, handmade quilt that is machine or hand quilted. It is awarded to a Service Member or Veteran who has been touched by war. The Quilt says unequivocally, ‘Thank you for your service and sacrifice in serving our nation,’” according to the Quilts of Valor website.
A Quilt of Valor must be a specific size, must have a label with the required information, must be awarded and must be recorded in order to be called a Quilt of Valor. Since the foundation was started, there have been a total of 375,337 Quilts of Valor awarded, according to the official website.
Laura Winckel, group leader for Quilts of Valor for Central Texas, was joined by a dozen or so volunteers who stitched and sewed squares together to create quilts on the National Sew Day.
Winckel started the Central Texas group approximately 14 years ago, and the group has awarded more than 900 Quilts of Valor.
Based in Harker Heights, Winckel’s group covers the Bell County area, Fort Cavazos and part of Coryell County.
Winckel’s husband served for 27 years, so this cause is important to her, she said.
“Being a military wife for almost 50 years, it’s close to my heart to recognize the ones less than one percent that give where they can,” Winckel said. “I could not believe when I started my quilting business, and on Facebook, I saw this Quilts of valor, and there wasn’t anybody here in Central Texas. How could there not be? We were Fort Hood. We have the largest concentration of active duty military in the world! How could we not? So I started [the Central Texas group].”
Winckel said it has been lifechanging for her since.
“It is one of the best things I do, to see the reaction on their faces, to see the emotions, to get the thank you notes, to hear back from them, to hear that the Quilt still helps them and give some comfort, to hear from the wives and husbands that the recipient had [the quilt] over them in their Lazy Boy or on their bed and slept through the night for the first time in years. To give somebody who served in Vietnam, who was spit on and never welcomed home, I could welcome them home,” Winckel said. “And that’s what we say when we award a Quilt of Valor- ‘Welcome home.’”
Rebecca Gillis, one of the Quilts of Valor volunteer quilters, first joined as a volunteer one year ago. She took kits with fabric and patterns and turned them into quilts, producing about one quilt a month, she said.
“It was such an honor,” Gillis said about two of her quilts being awarded to the two woman veterans on Saturday.
As the quilts were wrapped gently around the shoulders of veterans Renee Paul and Alice Brown, Winckel explained what each part of the quilt symbolized.
“The top of the quilt, with its many colors, shapes and fabrics represent your communities and the individuals we are. The batting, or the center of the quilt, is its warmth. It represents our hope that this quilt will bring comfort, peace and healing to the individual who receives it,” Winckel said. “The backing is the strength that supports all layers of the quilt. It represents the strength of the recipient, the support of his or her family, community and our nation. The stitches that bind the layers together represent the love, gratitude, and sometimes tears of the makers.”
Renee Paul retired from the Army in 2009 after more than 20 years of service. This was her first time receiving a public award outside of the military, she said.
“It is an absolute honor,” Paul said. “I’ve had some friends that had wanted to receive a Quilt of Valor, and they passed away. I know if they were here, they would have been here to support me, so I keep going because of them. Anything that I receive is because of them.”
Alice Brown served in the Army for 17 years before retiring in 2000. She was also so glad to be receiving a Quilt of Valor.
“It is an honor,” Brown said. “I’m thankful, grateful. It’s a tremendous honor. I love my country. We’re not perfect, but I love my country and we’re going to work through it. So, it’s tremendous to me to get this. I feel so honored. I don’t have the words, but from my heart, my heart is heavy, and I’m very thankful. I think it represents not just to me, but to others as well, so I’ll be happy to see more veterans receive theirs because we all know our stories. Everybody has their story of greatness with what they tried to do it in their term of service.”