A 93-year-old Blount County veteran was given a quilt last month to honor his military service, an award bestowed by a national nonprofit organization.
The quilt was the handiwork of Quilts of Valor, which started in 2003.
“Boy that means a lot, it means a lot,” said Ray Garner after receiving his quilt at the Blount County Courthouse, according to WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville.
A Purple Heart recipient, Garner served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. His name is on the World War II Battle of the Bulge monument outside the Blount County Courthouse.
Quilts of Valor was founded by Catherine Roberts, whose son was deployed to Iraq, according to the group’s website. The group originally focused on honoring those wounded in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first quilt was awarded in November 2003 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg in Iraq. A Walter Reed chaplain welcomed the group because his wife happened to be a quilter.
In 2009 in Bellingham, Washington, a group of Quilts of Valor volunteers who got together for a quilting retreat looked for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to honor at a veterans event they attended. Not finding any, they handed out quilts to Vietnam vets.
“The Vietnam vets said over and over again, ‘Ma’am, this is the first time in forty years anyone has ever thanked me for my service.’ All of us were thunderstruck,” the group’s website says. “From then on, any warrior who had been touched by war, no matter when his or her service, could receive a Quilt of Valor.”
Quilts of Valor got off to a bumpy start with a few people handling everything, but after becoming a national nonprofit in 2005 and creating a volunteer board of directors, a structure of volunteer leadership evolved.
Last year, 19,051 quilts were reported, according to the group’s January newsletter.
In December, Quilts of Valor partnered with Friends of the National World War II Memorial to award quilts to 28 Pearl Harbor survivors and World War II veterans at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., recognizing the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The group’s newsletter reports that one veteran was overheard saying as he offered to give his quilt to another veteran, “I know there is someone more deserving than me.”
Anyone can request a Quilt of Valor for a service member or veteran by completing the online form at http://www.qovf.org/request-qov/. Quilters interested in making quilts for the group can find instructions at http://www.qovf.org/quilters-questions/.