Quilt of Valor Sew Day in Harrison
Vietnam Veteran Gets Huge Surprise
By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer
HARRISON – The Quilts of Valor Foundation is an organization created to honor those who serve in this nation’s military. It states its mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. To that end, it has organized a multitude of stitchers and presenters dedicated to fulfilling that mission.
One of the special activities the foundation conducts is National Sewing Day, where groups across the country gather to cut fabric, piece squares and sew quilt tops. The event always takes place the first Saturday in February, and the foundation’s third such event was held this year on Feb. 3.
This year, QOVF state volunteer coordinator Judy Tritten and two others from Harrison took part in the Pins and Needles group’s Sew Day, which was held at Fife Lake American Legion Post 219.
“They worked hard,” Tritten said. “They didn’t know what they were doing, but they learned fast.”
After her visit to the Fife Lake group, Tritten headed back to Harrison to check on the group sewing in the Croze Manor Community Room, where the QOVF mission was taken up by members of the Clare County Crazy Quilters group from Harrison. Those volunteers were joined by Barb Kantner of the Mitten Brigade, Harrison’s local QOVF group. Tritten explained that not all the ladies present were Quilts of Valor members, but had “just run with it because they thought it was a marvelous thing to do for veterans.”
She then thanked all the Crazy Quilters who had arranged the event and expressed appreciation for all they were doing for veterans.
Tritten said that when she told the ladies of the American Legion Auxiliary about Sew Day, they stepped up to do whatever they could to help.
Speaking to how special the quilts can be to those who receive them, she told of a ceremony where a quilt had been awarded to a 100-year-old Japanese-American man. He had served in World War II, and despite being an American citizen was demoted because he was Japanese. Part of that man’s service had included liberating concentration camps, making his service extensive and profound. The story of his quilt presentation drives home the importance of recognizing a veteran’s service, no matter how much time has passed.
“My cohort who is the other state coordinator did that presentation,” Tritten said. “When she gave him the quilt, he said ‘But my name’s on that quilt.’ And she said that’s the story; your name is on that quilt. And he just started crying, couldn’t stop crying.”
Surveying the work of those creating quilts was not the only reason Tritten attended the Harrison Sew Day. Her purpose was twofold. While Legion Post 404 member Lawrence R. “Bob” Grignon may have thought he and his fellow members were attending to be helpful and lend moral support to the noble Quilts of Valor effort, he was only partially correct.
As it turns out, Saturday was going to be a day Grignon would never, ever forget. Feb. 3 was the day he was awarded a Quilt of Valor for his military service with the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.
“You were nominated by your friends,” Tritten said. “And they want you to get a Quilt of Valor.”
As Grignon watched in shocked amazement, Tritten described his service history, and went on to explain to him that the Quilts of Valor Foundation was started in 2003 by a Blue Star mother named Catherine Roberts. She said the purpose of Quilts of Valor was to comfort military and veterans touched by war.
“Today, we figure that as soon as you sign on that dotted line, you’re willing to give your life for our country,” she said. “And so, we want to cover all our veterans in active duty with a quilt. To date, we’ve given out over 180,000 quilts. And it’s all thanks to lovely people like this. Maybe they cut, maybe they sew, maybe they iron, maybe they presented.”
Grignon commented on the number of “lady” hours it must have taken to produce so many quilts, and Tritten said the most productive quilter the organization ever had was a male veteran who assembled 300 quilts by himself. She went on to say each quilt is different and has a story. Grignon’s quilt was assembled by the Brighton Casual Quilters.
“Many tears of gratitude go into the assembly of your quilt,” Tritten said. “But each quilt is first and last, and today your name has been added to the story on your quilt so future generations will know what you did for your country.”
“It’s very nice and thoughtful for you ladies and men to get together and do this,” Grignon said. “It’s special.”
Tritten was joined by Lisa Waltmeyer, and as the two draped the special quilt around Grignon’s shoulders, Tritten said, “On behalf of a grateful nation and the Quilts of Valor Foundation, I would like to award you with your Quilt of Valor.”
Grignon, whose quilt was accompanied by a certificate from the foundation, was deeply touched by the whole ceremony, and afterward admitted to having a difficult time holding in his emotions.
“I will never quit talking about this quilt from this day forward,” Grignon said. “I guarantee you. This is more than a guy can count on – I’m blessed. I really am. Thank you very much – everybody.”
A day after Sew Day, Tritten reported that the ladies who sewed in Harrison had completed four quilt tops.
“They’re awesome,” she said.
For information about the Quilts of Valor Foundation or to learn how to request one of its quilts, visit qovf.org or email Tritten at Judy.tritten@QOVF.org.