Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Returning Warrior Weekend
Saturday night I had the opportunity and the honor to participate in
an awesome experience along with quilters Sue W, Rebecca K,
Betsy P and Tiffany W.
We were observers at the Banquet of Honor for the Returning Warriors
Weekend in Augusta, Georgia, sponsored by the U.S. Navy for Navy & Marine
personnel returning from a war zone. The weekend offered sessions for
service members and family members as all explored and discovered
effective methods of dealing with the *new normal* that was life after
a combat deployment.
The Banquet of Honor began as the doors to the banquet hall opened.
Captain Greg S announced to the warriors and their guests
assembled in the in the atrium, that as individual Augmentees, they
often missed the welcome home experienced by larger companies and
reserve forces as they returned from deployment in a war zone.
Tonight is your Welcome Home Celebration, and then he led them
into a beautifully decorated ballroom to rousing music, and the cheers
and applause of those of us who'd been allowed in earlier. It was
loud and welcoming. (my first tear filled moment)
As I entered the banquet hall I noticed a table set for dinner on the
stage with an MIA logo draped over the chair. Before dinner was
served, the group observed a ceremony that often precedes a formal
military dinner: the POW/MIA Ceremony (my second tear filled moment),
ending with taps. As each part of the ceremony was explained, the Captain would say REMEMBER and a naval bell would toll once. It was heartwarming
moment as the daughter of a former POW to know that POW's and
MIA's are never forgotten.
After dinner Captain S called Sue W and me to the stage and
told the group about Quilts of Valor: the how and why Catherine
Roberts had started the Foundation, and that our mission was to cover
all those combat service members and veterans who had been touched by
war with Quilts of Valor.
He told them your quilts were for healing and for saying thank you for their service. At this moment Butler High School MCROTC members delivered your quilts to Facilitators at each table. The Facilitators in turn presented each warrior at their table with one of your gorgeous, patriotic quilts.
Some facilitators took each quilt from it's case and draped each person in his or her Quilt of Valor; others formally handed off your quilt in it's case
and the warriors quickly separated their new quilt from its case to
admire your work and embrace the quilt and all it represents. (my
third tear filled moment)
To look out from the stage at 78 warriors (14 of whom were women),
wrapped in Quilts of Valor was an experience I don't think I will ever
forget. But the best experience for the quilters who were present was
when these young men and women began to seek us out to hug us and to
thank us for your awesome gifts. One told me it was the most
wonderful gift he has ever received. Another told me he had been a
medic in Kandahar and has draped these beautiful quilts around his
charges as he helped load them on transports to be sent home. He
never expected to receive one of his own.
As often as we could, we told them stories about you as we checked the
labels to see who had made each quilt. Many asked about you and how
to contact you to thank you personally. I hope if you do receive a
personal note you will share their messages with the rest of us.
You are a blessing to these young warriors who are working to
re-construct their lives and relationships stateside. They were
touched by your talent, your generosity, and your loving support. I
am so proud of you all and to be a small part of this great outpouring
of love to our military.
Submitted by Susan G