Comfort, honor and healing in one gesture

An event that made its first appearance during the 2015 American Legion Spring Meetings has now become a May tradition in downtown Indianapolis.

On May 7, American Legion Family members came together for the fourth straight year to take part in a Quilts of Valor Day of Service. In the lower level of the Sheraton City Centre, American Legion Auxiliary members spearheaded an effort, many bringing their own sewing machines, to sew quilt tops designated for veterans and military personnel around the nation.

And once again, Ann Rehbein – executive director of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, the wife of Past National Commander Dave Rehbein and a past department president of the Iowa American Legion Auxiliary – coordinated the effort.

“It’s something that the ladies are very interested in doing, and they always ask if we’re going to do it again,” Rehbein said. “I’m happy to do it. It’s a great time to get together and do a service project. That’s the important thing, I think: we’re doing a service project.”

Quilts of Valor is a nationwide program that provides handmade quilts to wounded servicemembers and veterans recovering in military and Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, as well as any other veterans of any era. More than 186,000 quilts have been awarded since the project started in 2003.

Margaret Dellinger, the wife of Past National Commander Dan Dellinger and a member of Auxiliary Unit 180 in Vienna, Va., continues to volunteer with Quilts of Valor because of the end result. “When you see a quilt presented, it’s just very touching,” she said.

Dellinger also likes the teamwork involved, with different stations responsible for different parts of the quilts. “At the end of the day you have an actual creation,” she said. “You have a quilt.”

South Dakota Past Department Commander Gunner Baatrip has previously helped with Quilts of Valor during the Spring Meetings and did so again Monday. “It’s a fun thing to do,” he said. “I was 30 years in the (military), active and reserve. You continually think about the veterans and what you can do to help them.”

Rehbein has personally presented quilts to valor. Those moments have stayed with her. “Most of them are overwhelmed,” she said. “A lot of times, especially Vietnam veterans, it’s the first time that anyone’s thanked them for their service. Usually they are overcome with emotions.

“We tell them that we honor them, we comfort them, (that) this quilt is meant to heal them if they need that.”

Department of Missouri National Executive Committeeman Kenny Goth also stopped by to lend a hand, in part because his wife – Past Missouri Auxiliary President Cathie Goth – also was volunteering, and in part because of who the quilts help.

“I wanted to do this,” Goth said. “I think it’s just fantastic what they do and why they do it.”

Goth said he’d never used a sewing machine before his Quilts of Valor contribution. “My wife was just totally astounded that I didn’t break it,” he said.