Jul. 21—When volunteers draped the handmade red-white-and-blue Quilts of Valor over the shoulders of veterans last weekend at the Jasper County Fair, they hoped the retired military personnel felt a sense of warmth and comfort not just from the fabric but from knowing they were made by those who respected their service.
Inside the pavilion of the county fairgrounds last weekend, volunteers and young members of a 4-H quilting club presented their works to veterans in an official ceremony. Linda Osborn, a volunteer who leads the club, said about 35 quilts were made for the veterans, 13 of which were stitched by the 4-H members.
"Once you get into it and you have a presentation and everything, you find out how many veterans are out there who are tickled to have a quilt but don't have one," Osborn said. "You just want to do more. We went from 10 (made by youth) last year to 13 this year ... It's a little addictive."
Members of the 4-H club are quickly finding that out, but there are certainly worse vices than quilting that one can have. Osborn said the club has been around for the past two to three years. The kids involved are learning a difficult and traditional skill that for many adult volunteers has been passed onto them.
"It's a lifelong skill and they're carrying on an old tradition for future generations," Osborn said. "That was one of my goals. Beyond that I think they're learning some history, they're learning some family history. A lot of kids are giving quilts to people they know, like friends or family."
As a part of their quilting project, Osborn said the 4-H kids must interview the person who will be receiving the Quilt of Valor. They have to learn what branch of the military the individual served, how long they served, which war they fought in and perhaps their assigned duties or accomplishments.
From those interviews, some kids took what they learned and applied it to their quilts in creative ways. Osborn said one 4-H member copied a map of a veteran's ship's path through the Mediterranean Sea and put in on the fabric. In the past, another member used pieces of her dad's fatigues in the quilt.
Several of the veterans received their Quilts of Valor during the ceremony at the county fair. Osborn recalled it being an emotional experience for many of the service members involved. Even the audience sometimes teared up when they saw hardened veterans' eyes well up with tears after receiving their quilt.
"They're getting recognition," Osborn said. "We have people from the 1950s who are getting special recognition for what they did. It's the rest of us that weren't getting a quilt or didn't serve in the military thanking them for their service, to honor what they've done and their sacrifices. It gets emotional for everybody."
Doug Bishop, chair of the Jasper County Veterans Alliance, provided opening remarks during the ceremony. In general, veterans are a humble bunch and do not particularly brag for their service or want to be recognized. Bishop said their standard answer is: "I just did what I had to do."
But Bishop and the other volunteers affirm the quilts are a good way of showing thanks and honor to those who did serve and provided them their freedoms.
Many of the veterans who received Quilts of Valor on July 17 had served during the Korean War, sometimes referred as "the Forgotten War." This year volunteers wanted to focus on the Korean War-era veterans, who are well into their 90s. Osborn said they need this recognition.
"We really pushed hard to get these quilts out so that we would get as many as possible," she said. "That's why this one was so big."
Bishop said, "A lot of those guys (who served in the Korean War) went many, many years up until the Freedom Flights before they were even recognized for their service.
The distribution of quilts, Bishop added, is a great example of civilians showing their support of veterans. Some of the veterans will say they are not worthy of a quilt or will claim another service member is more deserving. Bishop said the idea of Quilts of Valor is to make sure they all get a quilt.
"Every one of the men and women that were there and received that quilt at one time pledged an oath to our Constitution and raised their right hand and swore to give, up to and including, the cost of their lives to protect our country," Bishop said. "...Every one of them that was there and honored with that quilt offered their life, if necessary, for our country. So that's a good way to honor them."
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or email@example.com