A homespun quilt might not be the first thing you associate with a U.S. Marine, but Rachel Fredericks of Troy, NY, certainly appreciates that it is the first and only thing that comes to mind for a very special circle of women.
Fredericks, 25, who broke both hips and two vertebrae during a combat training exercise six years ago, was one of 33 wounded veterans and their families who received a handmade quilt during a recent Wounded Warrior Ski and Snow Boarding event in Windham, NY earlier this month.
When Fran Goldstein, who manages The Patchwork Company, a fabric store, first learned that a group of injured veterans would be visiting her town she immediately wanted to do something for them.
"And what's nicer than a quilt?" she said.
So Fran and her daughter, store owner, Lori Krueger, contacted their clientele to see if there might be interest. In spite of their offer to supply the fabric wholesale, they wondered if they would be able to fulfill their pledge of 30 quilts. The response from quilting circles all over the region was overwhelming. By the start of this year's event, they received 65 quilts - and they were still arriving.
"People I don't even know, but who heard of this project, have been dropping quilts at the store," said Krueger.
"We just want to hug the warriors and thank them for what they've done," said a quilter from a local guild called The Piecemakers.
Many of the women, whose average age is 65, wove messages into their quilts: "Presented with the utmost honor and respect." "Thank you for your service."
Many chose brightly colored red, white and blue fabric and embedded the words: "Courage" "Honor" or "Freedom" into their patterns.
Many participants also referenced a quilter determined to finish her gift despite the debilitating effects of breast cancer treatments. Several contributed two or three.
Marty Sheridan of Greenfield, MA, who served in Iraq and returned this year as a volunteer instructor, smiled as he held his quilt. "I am humbled by the outpouring of support from the local community. I chose Jean's quilt," he said nodding to a woman standing a few feet away, beaming with pride.
"My mother-in-law quilts and I know how much time and effort goes into making them," said Nicholas Schulman a warrior from Nashua, NH.
Rachel Frederick's joy could not be contained as she admired the quilt display. She said the weekend had offered her "a sense of support, camaraderie and freedom that she had not felt in years" and she was "stunned and so grateful" to learn that a group of people beyond the Wounded Warrior Project would invest so much time and care to create something so beautiful for her and her comrades.
"I picked the one with the skiers on it so I can always remember exactly where and when I got it," she said, as she shared the embroidered message: "One who sleeps under a quilt is comforted by love." Made for you, Peace and Thank you, Debra S. Cairo, NY 2015.