Pat Knight from the Department of Virginia talks to Quilts of Valor Executive Director Ann Rehbein during the May 8 event in Indianapolis. (Photo by Clay Lomneth)

Showing support and thanks, stitch by stitch

American Legion National Vice Commander Douglas L. Boldt has made four Quilts of Valor presentations to veterans in the past few months. The Department of Nebraska Legionnaire calls the presentations very moving experiences.

But on May 8, Boldt was able to contribute to a Quilts of Valor presentation in another way. He and other Legion family members had a hand in making quilts during a special event at the Sheraton City Centre Hotel in Indianapolis.

For the third straight year, the Legion’s Spring Meetings were the backdrop for a Quilts of Valor Day of Service event. Dozens of Legion and American Legion Auxiliary members were able to help sew quilts that will be presented to a group of American Legion past national commanders on May 10.

“I think Quilts of Valor is a worthwhile endeavor,” Boldt said. “The recipients are so grateful – humble and grateful and appreciative when receiving the quilts."

Getting a chance to help create a quilt wasn’t without risks, Boldt joked. But it was worth it.

“You can’t help but think when you’re sitting there running that doggone machine … you don’t want to get your doggone finger caught in it,” Boldt said with a laugh. “But you can’t get that image out of your mind (of) the look in their eye … as you’re watching them wrap themselves up in their quilt. The look in their eye is something that stays with you for a long, long time. Maybe forever.”

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 159,000 quilts have been awarded since the project started in 2003.

Past Department of Iowa Auxiliary President Ann Rehbein, executive director of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, again helped organize the event – the third such effort at the Spring Meetings.

“It’s something I have a passion for, obviously, but it also brings together this group of ladies and gentlemen together for a common cause,” Rehbein said. “People are starting to recognize what it is, and that’s the point – to get brand awareness out. And people are happy to have the opportunity to volunteer."

Rehbein said seeing a quilt from pieces of fabric to being presented to a veteran brings with it a special reward. “We have stories from veterans that say ‘no one ever thanked me for my service, and this is my first thank you,’” she said. “It’s very emotional at times.

“We presented a quilt not long ago to a World War II veteran, and he said, ‘When I came home I got off the bus (and) walked down Main Street to my parents’ house. There was no brass band there waiting for me. He said, ‘I guess this is my brass band.’”