Why I Sewed a Quilt of Valour™
By Anita LaHay
As a military wife I see the personal side of the military that the general public does not see. I see how military service and the aftermath of a difficult tour takes it’s tole on a family. Children have behavioural issues. Wives are totally burnt out. Friendships are strained or broken because so much help is needed and too much is requested of one person. I see all this going on around me and wish there was something I could do to fix it and make these problems go away.
I hear stories from my friends about how they didn’t get much sleep last night because their husband was having nightmares. Or about how they won’t be going to see the fireworks on New Year’s Eve or Canada Day because it’s too upsetting for their spouse. I hear how they wish their husband would go in and get help for his PTSD but he refuses to admit that he has it and won’t talk about it.
I know I cannot fix it. These problems are here to stay. What I can do is sew a quilt and for a few moments in a day that quilt can offer comfort and security. That quilt can be a hug when I, or anyone else, is not there to give it. That quilt is a reminder that while it may sometimes seem like society does not notice or care about the sacrifices that soldier or family has made that individuals like me do notice and we do care.
The first Quilt of Valour I made was made for the husband of one of my friends. I heard the story of what he had to go through in Afghanistan and was moved to action. What he went through was possibly more than I could endure. I cannot tell you the story because it’s not mine to tell but when I think about it I just want to hug him as if he were my own son. Just thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes. He is thousands of kilometers away from me but I know that my quilt is a help to him. It is not only meaningful and a comfort to him but also to his wife and children. When his Mom heard about the quilt she cried. A Quilt of Valour can make a big difference not only to the soldier who receives it but to all of his family as well. That first quilt was my first time working with so many half square triangles in a quilt. They are quite tedious to trim but you have to do it because they won’t match up precisely in the end if you don’t. There were times in the making of the quilt that I was feeling frustrated with all that trimming but thinking about how the things my friend’s husband, now my friend too, had to go through helped to push me through. It’s because of him, and all who have served, that I am free to do what I want and what I want to do is sew.
I have made three Quilts of Valour™ and all of them were for soldiers who I’ve known and whose stories of Afghanistan I know something of. Not all of us who sew Quilts of Valour™ can know the soldiers who we are making for but maybe you can think of what it would be like for you if you did know the soldier. What if the soldier was your brother/sister, your friend or your child? That could help to inspire you and motivate you to the finish.
I chose the “Diamond Tread” pattern designed by Lee Heinrich because it looked like the pattern the wheels of military vehicles might make on the ground. I liked that it looked like a vehicle had driven up the side of the quilt and I wanted to make a quilt with a modern esthetic that would appeal to a man. I chose red and white to represent Canada and the gratitude of all Canadians for his service.