David Proeber Photography
One of the products of Quilts of Valour ends up in a medevac unit in Iraq, bringing warmth to a critically injured soldier. (For The Pantagraph)
"I don't know what the people who made the quilts were expecting when they made the quilts and then shipped them, nor the strange turn of events that must occur to get the quilts to the hospital and then into the nurses' hands. However, I think this is exactly what the maker of the quilts would have hoped for most. I am absolutely convinced that watching a nurse explain the details of a quilt to a soldier wounded in action and who is unable speak, is receiving the highest award his nation can give under any circumstances. This gift is far more meaningful than any small piece of ribbon or shred of medal. It is truly the token of thanks of a grateful nation."
- U.S. Army physician serving in Iraq
By David Proeber
Pantagraph Photo Editor
It is 6,800 miles from Lexington, Ill., to Baghdad, Iraq. That is a long way to mail a quilt.
But the distance to America's battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan no longer seem quite so distant, particularly when you think about your neighbor's son lying critically wounded in a field hospital.
Thus was born an effort of love that came from years of a war some have come to question.
What isn't questioned is the need a group of area women fill when they to sew handmade quilts that are sent to America's wounded warriors.
"In the summer of 2008 my friend Linda Hutchins of Lexington and I were picking up quilts from our quilter in Springfield and she showed us some Valor quilts she and her church group were making to send overseas," said Anita Revelle, a Lexington quilter who has sewn most of her life.
"We both thought it would be nice to make a few quilts and ship them to the wounded soldiers. So our Lexington group, 'Sew and Tell' quilt guild, made 25 by that fall and sent them to Springfield to be sent overseas," she said.
"Time passed and last spring we had thought about getting started again but it never seemed to happen, until one day I got this e-mail from my friend, in November 2008:"
"I am the Critical Care Nurse on a Critical Care Aero medical Transport Team (CCATT) stationed in central Iraq. Our teams fly the most critical patients from point of injury to the combat support hospitals and often transfer those patients on to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Today, I had the honor of using one of your blankets.
"The blanket was used to warm a young Marine that has a severe traumatic brain injury that he sustained in combat as a gunner. Our patient actually improved during flight, in part due to the warmth of your blanket. He should recover to return to his family.
"Thank you for taking your time and your resources to make these blankets. They are very much appreciated."
The little group of women has sewn together on Sunday afternoons at Lexington's Community Center for the past three years. To date, with the help of Bloomington's "Hands All Around Quilt Guild," they have sewn more than 200 quilts and sent them to medical units in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hospitals treating the wounded.
The women come from across Central Illinois. The quilts they sew are made of a variety of patterns that reflect the red, white and blue of home and country.
Revelle said the material doesn't come cheap. They purchase much of it themselves, but receive some donations from area merchants and families who have learned about their purpose. They have also received donations from groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Bloomington and the American Legion in Lexington, among others.
Last weekend the quilters took 38 quilts to the veterans hospital in Danville.
"They have 143 wounded in the long-term care unit there," she said. "We're hoping to get Danville-area quilters involved in this project."
In addition to the quilts, the "Sew and Tell" quilt guild has sent more than 1,000 Christmas stockings to U.S. troops in war zones in the Middle East during the past five years.
"There's a camaraderie involved," Revelle said. "Quilters are a very giving group of people."
"Linda and I are committed to doing this until the troops come home."
When local Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Poppe of Kappa was critically injured in Afghanistan last June, the group didn't waste a minute and sent off a quilt that was specifically addressed to him at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
There was an air of sadness when Revelle and neighbor Linda Hutchins carefully folded up the quilt for the long trip to Poppe. It is rare when they know in advance who will receive their quilt. There have been miraculously few battlefield casualties incurred by troops from Central Illinois.
"Jared wrote us back and thanked us but told us that none of the servicemen in his ward had a quilt," Revelle said. "We sent the ward 10 more."
Most of the quilts are given to anonymous soldiers, many of whom are too injured to write back with thanks.
In one case, Revelle received this heartfelt note:
"I am a U.S. Army soldier who was evacuated from Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for medical treatment. I was given one of comforters that your group quilts for our wounded service members. I want you to know how much I appreciated your kindness and thoughtfulness, and what a real comfort the quilt was to me throughout my evacuation and hospital stay in Germany. I will keep the quilt as a reminder to me of what great people we have at home in the USA, people that are willing to give of their time and resources to support their military. I am very thankful to you and very proud of the good people of the United States of America.
"Lastly, I am sure that you do not receive as many "thank yous" as are deserved because, even though every G.I. who receives a quilt is appreciative, many do not write because of their injuries, a pending return to duty, or the simple human fault of forgetting to thank deserving people. For all of them, I pass their thanks to you. Please know that you make a difference in the lives of our wounded service members. May God bless you all and our country in this New Year."
Anita Revelle, Lexington, folds a handmade quilt made by area quilters that was sent to Jared Poppe, after he had been seriosly wounded in Afghanistan, Saturday, July 9, 2011. The quilts are sent to hospital units and accompany wounded troops on airlift flights to hospitals in Europe or the United States. (The Pantagraph, David Proeber)
Linda Hutchins, Lexington, Illinois, uses a feather weight sewing machine to make Christmas stockings for U.S. troops during a meeting of Lexington's quilt guild, Friday, July 15, 2011. The guild and other central Illinois quilters have made more than 200 quilts and several hundred Christmas stockings for U.S. servicemen. (The Pantagraph, David Proeber)
The detailed stitching of a handmade quilt made by area quilters is what was sent to Jared Poppe, after he had been seriously wounded in Afghanistan, Saturday, July 9, 2011.
(The Pantagraph, David Proeber)