From Linda Kau - Alaska State Coordinator
It's been awhile since I sent a State of Alaska update, so guess I'd better do that! This year we've had several major award ceremonies and numerous individual requests and visits. We also made trips onto Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson to award QOVs at the Warriors Transition Battalion, and to individual soldiers and airmen, when requested.
In April, we awarded quilts to the veterans returning from Washington D.C. on the Last Frontier Honor Flight. Twenty-three men and women enjoyed this surprise award at the Welcome Home ceremony. We've been asked to award QOV's once more at this weekend's Welcome Home ceremony. On this flight, of which twenty-three more recipients, will reach out to the farthest parts of the state's northwest corner; the Northern Interior, Annette Island in the Southeast, Kenai Peninsula, as well as, veterans located throughout South Central. One recipient is a member of the Alaska Territorial Guard, he kept his eyes on the Japanese during WWII. The only lady veteran on this flight was in the Nurse Corp where she met a young sailor whom she married after the war. That's a total of forty-six WWII and Korean War veterans. We might have missed them had it not been for the invitation to be part of The Last Frontier Honor Flight Welcome Home ceremonies.
In September, we made our 4th annual visit to the Alaska Veterans and Pioneer Home, where we awarded QOVs to twenty new veteran residents and three other local veterans for whom quilts had been requested. Each year, attrition takes away so many of our older veterans that we find that about twenty new QOVs are needed each September. This year, one lady veteran made the day extra special for everyone. She was so excited to receive a quilt and to see all of her fellow veterans receive theirs that her cheers and hugs warmed everyone's heart. We always have the local JROTC Color Guard open the ceremony and a local lady with a beautiful voice sings the National Anthem. Even the veterans who aren't able to leave their wheelchairs come to attention during this ceremony.
Another group that we have had the pleasure of making QOV's and awarding to is the local chapter of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. They've even made me an associate member because I seem to "show up" to so many of their meetings. In November, ten more of their members will be recognized as we award them QOVs. This will bring the total up to thirty-five members who have been recognized.
Our semi-annual retreats held at the local VFW post, always include awards held each evening and on Saturday afternoon. The VFW Auxiliary gives us names to honor each year, usually reaching out to the older veterans at their post. This year I also invited several for whom I had received individual requests for to join the festivities. At the fall retreat, I had one veteran ask if one of his buddies could also receive a QOV. Of course, I said yes. The evening of the event, a surprise visitor, another buddy who had served with the other two at various posts, came to watch the event. Buddy #2 said, "I sure wish I'd known Gonzo was going to be here, I'd have asked if you could honor him, too." Well..........of course there just happened to be an extra quilt on the table and an extra award certificate in my bag.......So we ended up awarding fifteen quilts that weekend.
The group in Fairbanks covers the Interior and does a great job. They award quilts to the soldiers at Ft. Wainwright. When requested, they fill all of the individual requests for the Interior and reach out to the far north. Recently, we had a request for eight quilts to go to the small village of Anaktuvuk Pass (ever watch Ice Road Truckers?), Sally, our group leader, was able to find a traveling nurse who will use her airline miles to carry those quilts to the village and make the awards. This is an area that's pretty much isolated much of the year due to poor roads.
The new group, who formed earlier this year on Kodiak Island (about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage), hung their first eleven quilts at their local guild's quilt show the first weekend of the month. While there, they received several nominations which they will be able to fill immediately. Nice! This part of the state can be reached only by air or water, so I'm especially grateful to have a group leader there to make awards and bring the quilters into our fold.
Another new group this year is called Christ Church Cut Ups. Cute name, no? Before they even formed the group they'd received a grant from their diocese to buy tools, fabric, etc. to make quilts. Now they have added Quilts of Valor® to their ministry and we awarded their first quilt this last Friday night. I hope to have pictures and a story about this man and his QOV® soon. He's in his mid-nineties and has served his country and church all of those years. His service to the country started (as he said) proudly in April 1941 and continues today.
A guild in a neighboring town, between my home and Anchorage, has also formed a QOV membership group. They are off to a slower start, they have made one award so far. With the coming of winter I expect to hear more about their activities soon. They also hold monthly sew day so I'm sure they'll be up and running before long.
If you've read this far.......thank you! When I start talking QOV I seem to get very long winded.
State of Alaska Coordinator
Quilts of Valor® Foundation