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Sunday, July 21, 2024 at 12:21 PM

Quilts of Valor Awarded by the High Desert Grange

Veterans' Day Lunch at the Elks Club
Quilts of Valor Awarded by the High Desert Grange

In 2003, the Quilts of Valor Foundation began with a dream. Founder Catherine Roberts’ son Nat was deployed in Iraq. According to Catherine, “The dream was as vivid as real life.”  On the Quilts of Valor Foundation’s website (https://www.qovf.org/), Catherine shares her vision: “I saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of 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. The message of my dream was: Quilts equal Healing. The model appeared simple, a volunteer team who would donate their time and materials to make a quilt. One person would piece the top and the other would quilt it. I saw the name for this special quilt. It was a Quilt of Valor, QOV.” 

Catherine had definite ideas about standards of excellence of the Quilts of Valor. She knew a QOV had to be a quality-made quilt, not a “charity quilt.”  “A Quilt of Valor had to be quilted, not tied, which meant hand or machine quilting. It would be “awarded,” not just passed out like magazines or videos, and would say unequivocally, “Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation,” she states on the website. 

Thus, began Quilts of Valor. This year, at the Nov. 11 Veterans Day lunch hosted by the Elks Club, the High Desert Grange awarded its first Quilts of Valor to four veterans, all of whom reside in Fallon. The quilts presentation was led by Kathleen Rodegeb, Grange sewing club leader. 

Taking on a project of this magnitude is something Kathleen had wanted to do for years. Retired and living in Fallon, she now has the time and space for creating such large pieces of work from her heart. Kathleen’s family history of military service goes back as far as the Revolutionary War. Several of her ancestors fought in WWI and WWII. More recently, one of her uncles served in the Army during the Korean War and was mortally wounded on his final day of service. Two more uncles fought in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War, as well. One of them was career Air Force and a fighter pilot who retired as a Lt. Colonel and is buried in a national cemetery in Florida. 

Four of her brothers served during the Vietnam era and beyond. One of them is a Navy man who broke his back in an accident that left him with profound mobility issues that he continues to live with on a daily basis. He is confined to a wheelchair. A second brother who served, boots on the ground, in Vietnam in the Air Force was sickened from Agent Orange and from dirty needles that were used to give the troops vaccines. He contracted Hepatitis C, lived with its devasting effects, and died from complications of the disease years later. A third brother was also in the Air Force, spending most of his time on Guam repairing the guns on B-52 bombers. He made the Air Force his career and retired more than 20 years later. A fourth brother was in the Army and served during the Vietnam era from a post in Alaska.  

Upon reflection of the great contributions our military service members make, Kathleen said, “Our country would not be, and we would not enjoy the bounty we have if not for our military, and it takes all the men and women who enlist to make it happen.” 

Helping Kathleen with one of the quilts was Trisha Dowling, a member of the High Desert Grange sewing class. Kathleen made three herself. Each quilt is different, designed and sewn from input from those who nominated each awardee. Input includes branch of service, dates of service, service deployment(s), rank when the veteran left the military, and activities the veteran currently enjoys. Supplies and materials for the quilts were donated by Trisha and Kathleen. 

As coordinator of the Quilts of Valor project for the High Desert Grange, it is Kathleen’s responsibility to choose who is awarded the quilts. Nominations are requested. This year, she received three nominations and made one nomination herself. “I selected all of them and I will always select all of them as long as they meet the criteria set out by the Quilts of Valor Foundation,” she said. “The quilts are registered with the Quilts of Valor Foundation and with the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry.” Each quilt has a special tag with the awardee’s name, branch of service, dates of service, who pieced the quilt, who quilted the quilt, who bound the quilt, the Grange logo, and the Quilts of Valor logo. 

All Quilts of Valor recipients at the lunch were completely unaware they were receiving a quilt. “I was very surprised to receive the quilt,” stated Marine Orville Wempner. Dan Peterson, husband of this story’s writer, shared his thoughts on receiving his quilt. “This is an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life.”   

The Elks’ Club has invited the High Desert Grange to next year’s Veterans’ Day lunch to make their second presentation of Quilts of Valor.  Nominations for next year’s awardees must be made by June 1, 2022. Nominees are not required to be Grange members. The only requirement is that they be a veteran in good standing. Nominations may be sent to [email protected]. For more information, please contact High Desert Grange Lecturer Gloria Montero at (775) 427-8210.