For the first time ever, the North Central Quilts of Valor honored four local veterans with a presentation and quilt dedication in a ceremony at the Okanogan County Fair, Sept. 7.
Veterans receiving quilts were Private William Gomez, U.S. Army, Tonasket; Norman Elliott Marshall, U.S. Navy, Brewster; Chief Michael Kelly, U.S. Navy Seabees; and Senior Chief Officer Michael Daharsh, U.S. Navy, Tonasket.
Daharsh served in the United States Navy from 1961-1983, retiring from service as an E-8. Martha Peppones made the quilt with Pam VonPressentin quilting the pieces together. Peppones and Laurie Morgan wrapped the quilt around Daharsh.
Kelly served in the United States Navy Seabees from 1969-1993 before ending his service as an E-7. VonPressentin made and quilted the pieces for his Quilt of Valor. VonPressentin and Hallee Chilmonik wrapped Kelly with his quilt.
Elliott Marshall served in the United States Navy from 1955-1962 as an E-6. Morgan made and quilted Marshall’s gift, with Morgan and Chilmonik presenting it to him at the ceremony.
Gomez served in the United States Army from 1967-1969 during the height of the Vietnam War. Gomez’s quilt was made by Garland Quilts of Valor out of Spokane. Two members of the local group, Patti and Melanie, wrapped Gomez with his quilt.
“We want to thank our veterans and service members for taking that oath that you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This quilt is an expression of gratitude meant to thank and comfort you. We can never know your sacrifice while keeping us safe,” said the group at the event. “This quilt of Valor unequivocally says thank you for your service and sacrifice in serving our nation. Thank you for my freedom, my family’s freedom and the freedom of everyone here.”
The group also thanked Brock Hires, with the fair board for being the emcee, saying he did an “awesome job” and the county fair for letting them be the opening act for Easton Corbin and Hallee Chicomook for taking photos of the group.
The quilts presented to veterans were designed and made by members of North Central Quilts of Valor, organizers said.
Quilts of Valor began as a dream, according to founder Catherine Roberts.
Roberts was home in the United States as her son was deployed in Iraq around 2003.
According to Roberts, the dream was as vivid as real life.
“I saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over,” Roberts said. “The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter.
“Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being. The quilt had made this dramatic change.”
Roberts then took that simple, but profound message, and made it her life’s work. Quilts equal healing.
The model was simple on the surface: organize volunteers to donate time, materials, and love to put into quilts that would cover – both literally and emotionally – veterans. Roberts would name them Quilts of Valor.
Since then, more than 355,000 quilts have been made for the organization, with 19,000 made year-to-date alone. Washington state has 24 groups and 550 members as part of a national movement of over 10,000 members and 672 groups. ♦
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