A ministry of quilts for wounded soldiers

Washington Post:

The carefully packed boxes stack up daily in the chaplain's quarters at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, about 50 a week. The instructions read simply: "Please give this to a soldier." Chaplain John L. Kallerson, an Army major, gently opens each one and places the contents around his windowless office. Then he lays his big hands on the piles and says a blessing.

His is the ministry of the quilts.

A phone call to the chaplain four years ago has created a national movement to say thank you to soldiers wounded in the war on terror.

More than 7,900 "comfort quilts," each carefully stitched with love and gratitude, have been sent through the Quilts of Valor Foundation to the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed and 70 other U.S. military medical centers. Kallerson prays over and hands out quilts from church groups, schoolchildren, quilting bees. Quilts made from accomplished artists whose designs sell for thousands. Quilts with bears, fish, basketballs. Quilts with hot-pink flowers for wounded women.

Amish and Mennonites have sent them anonymously. Children at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind have created Braille quilts for soldiers who have lost their sight. Some donors, such as Native Americans who sent quilts bearing warrior symbols, have requested that their quilts be given to kindred spirits. Many have special messages: "You are our hero." "You are very brave."

Some arrive with letters, tapes or prayers.

"This is a gift from the heartland," Kallerson said. "Soldiers get CD players and iPods and DVDs, but this is the greatest gift of all. It comes from people's hearts. This is a simple thank you for your service."

Deborah Francisco, a defense contractor from St. Leonard, spent a year making one with the black and gold Army 1st Cavalry logo. "I hope the soldier who got it feels like someone is thinking of him," Francisco said.

The story goes on to explain how the program got started and how "warmly" it has been received. Some of the stories are really touching. One double amputee said he didn't deserve a Purple Heart quilt. There are 19 million quilters in the national association and many have been involved in the effort. This website is a clearinghouse for information on the comfort quilts.


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