WEST MANCHESTER — Mary White, of West Manchester, started making her son, U.S. Army Colonel Jonathan Patrick White, a “Quilt of Valor” the day he left for his fourth deployment to Afghanistan, in 2014.
While Mary said it is always difficult when Jonathan is deployed – he was deployed three times prior in 2004, 2005 and 2007 – this one seemed more difficult.
“We were so worried about him going because he was leaving behind his wife Erika and three-year-old boy Sebastian,” Mary said. “He had never been separated from Sebastian.”
In addition, Mary was hearing news reports from Afghanistan. After Facetiming Jonathan a few times, she and her husband Harry could see the drain the war was having on their son. To help stave off her worries, she worked on the quilt.
“Whenever I couldn’t get it off of my mind, I worked on the quilt,” she said. “Sometimes I got frustrated and overwhelmed, but I thought of how much he was going through. Sometimes I prayed while I was making it; offering it up for all of his sacrifices. But nothing compared to the sacrifices he was making.”
For her first quilt, the “Quilt of Valor” was not an easy pick, she said. She dedicated an entire year to the project in order to have it ready for Jonathan’s return.
“I have been a seamstress all of my life, but quilting is a lot different and more precise,” she said. “If measurements are off, even by an one-eighth of an inch, the mistake offsets the entire quilt. Another challenge was making sure I had enough fabric as the colors aren’t always in stock, and have to be ordered. Sewing together the first quilt block gave me a lot of satisfaction, joy and encouragement. Assembling the quilt blocks is the fun part.”
Mary worked hard, and she said by God’s grace it was ready for Jonathan’s return. He was stationed in Hawaii, and she mailed it at the end of July, 2015. Her wish was to give him the quilt in person, but the “Quilt of Valor” is meant to be given soldiers immediately upon their return, she said.
“I boxed it all up and prayed it would arrive safely,” she said. “We watched him open it on Facetime. I kept wondering in the back of my mind if a man would like a quilt. As soon as he opened it, I knew it truly meant a lot to him. He got emotional, his wife gave him a big hug and he couldn’t talk for a little while. Later he took a nap and was all wrapped up in it. They sent other photos of him and Sebastian under the quilt watching TV.”
Colonel White said the quilt had helped him heal from a rough deployment.
“When I received the quilt in the mail and opened the package, I was speechless,” he said. “I was in awe of the details and the amount of time that went into making the quilt. What overwhelmed me the most, was the amount of love the quilt embodies. It is one of my most treasured possessions and will be an amazing heirloom.”
Mary gave credit to her husband Harry, who she said was very supportive throughout the project.
“He helped me in so many ways, including: cooking supper a lot of times when I worked late, or driving me to the different quilt stores; even one in Dayton,” she said. “He also listened to my complaints and worries.”
The Quilt of Valor (QOV) Foundation is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. The first QOV was awarded in November, 2003, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg in Iraq. Since then, as of July 2017, 164,631 Quilts of Valor have been awarded, according to its website.
“Many more are needed,” Mary said.”I think it is a wonderful thing to do, and the joy is in seeing what it means to someone. It doesn’t have to be a big quilt like I made for Jon. Some soldiers arrive at the hospitals with only the clothing on their backs. The comfort of a quilt can make a big difference during their time of healing.”
The Quilt of Valor organization and Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting offers contacts to help with the process, including donations of quilting and materials. For more information, visit www.qovf.org or fonsandporter.com