Raylene Mason talks about honoring local military service members and veterans with specially made quilts called Quilts of Valor.
1. How did the non-profit group, the Quilts of Valor Foundation, get its start and how does the group help active duty military service members and veterans?
Quilts of Valor was started in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, an Army Mom from Washington, whose son was deploying to Iraq. Early on, quilts went to Wounded Warriors—those with physical and psychological wounds coming off the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. The concept was that a specially made quilt would comfort warriors and let them know that they are not forgotten by Americans back home. Quilts of Valor has become a national grassroots effort, with local groups springing up across the country, and we now award quilts to all service members and veterans, regardless of when or where they served. In this, our 10th year anniversary, I'm proud to say that more than 87,000 Quilts of Valor have been awarded.
2. How many local residents are in the group and do they all do the actual quilting?
The local Quilts of Valor group is called the QOV Kansas City Area Bee. We have more than 50 participants from all over the Kansas City metro area. In fact, I know of two Leavenworth residents, Pamela Gayle Johnson-Tuttle and Tia Curtis, who are part of our group. Many in our group piece the quilt tops, while others apply decorative topstitching with longarm quilting machines. Some, like Pam and Tia, do both.
3. What's the average time it takes to make a quilt? Can you describe what some of the quilts look like and how the themes come about?
There are so many different quilt patterns, it's hard to say how long it takes to make a quilt.
I've made some quilts in two or three days, while a few elaborate patterns took a month or longer to make.
Many of our quiltmakers use traditional quilt blocks in a patriotic red-white-and-blue color theme. But we do have quiltmakers who enjoy more contemporary fabrics, like batiks and bright prints. We try to make the quilts large enough for a tall male soldier to cover up with, the ideal size being about 60 inches. by 80 inches. But we always remember that there are female soldiers, too, so we try to make some with more feminine fabrics.
4. Who were the recipients of your recent quilt presentation in June and when will your next presentation be and who will be honored?
Last month, we were so honored to award Quilts of Valor to two Leavenworth veterans, Leon Espe and Gary Reynolds.
We're very excited about our upcoming ceremony at Fort Leavenworth on July 31. We'll be honoring 35 members of the 705th Military Police Battalion who deployed last fall and just returned last month.
Page 2 of 2 - 5. What are the sentiments that the foundation is primarily hoping to express to service members and veterans through the creation and presentations of these quilts? And what have been the most memorable moments when the recipients are presented with these keepsakes?
The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover all combat service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.
As quiltmakers, we consider our quilts to be a labor of love and offer them as a gesture of respect for the service and sacrifices our military service members and their families have made.
For me, the most memorable quilt presentation was at Fort Riley last year, where members of our QOV group and the Wichita QOV group presented quilts to more than 500 soldiers from the 4th Cavalry, who had just returned from Afghanistan. It was truly an overwhelming experience to be able to honor so many fine men and women serving our country.
Bonus Question: As the mother of a service member, do the quilting and presentations have special significance for you?
I've always had a special connection with the military, having worked for the Army for 17 years.
I was extremely proud when my son joined the Army, and I started making Quilts of Valor to honor his service.
— Rimsie McConiga