Quilts of Valor Presented at First United Methodist Church

Kathleen Van Orsdel shares the story of Orphan Stars with the Quilts of Valor recipients at the ceremony February 19 at First United Methodist Church.  The recipients wrapped in their quilts are Beth Arsenault, Richard Arsenault, Ambrose Beckler, Sean Tilley, and Bill Potter.

Patriotism was the order of the day on February 19 as four male veterans and one female veteran were wrapped in Quilts of Valor made by the Jefferson City Quilters at First United Methodist Church, Jefferson City.

Kathleen Van Orsdel, herself a Vietnam War Era veteran and an avid patriot and quilter, is the Group Leader of the Jefferson City Quilters. She conducted the ceremony as Ambrose Beckler, U.S. Air Force, Vietnam; Sean Tilley, U.S. Army, Iraqi Freedom 2004 and 2009; William “Bill” Potter, U.S. Air Force, Thailand and Vietnam; Richard Arsenault, U.S. Marines, Vietnam; and Beth Arsenault, U.S. Marines, Vietnam War Era, received patriotic quilts in honor of their military service.

Willard Wingo, U.S. Army, was unable to attend the ceremony because he was with his family awaiting the arrival of his great-granddaughter who was due at any time. His friend apologized for the absence, but said that some things “just take precedence, such as the arrival a first great-grandchild.” Jeanne Apgar, the group’s chaplain, will deliver the quilt to Wingo later this week.

Van Orsdel gave a short history of the Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOVF) as founded in 2003 while Founder Catherine Roberts’ son Nat was deployed in Iraq. The webpage for the foundation states that the organization started with a dream that Roberts had. “The dream was as vivid as real life. I saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter. Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being. The quilt had made this dramatic change. The message of my dream was:  Quilts = Healing.” After Roberts made her son a quilt and sent it to him, he wrote back asking if she could make quilts for some of his friends, and Quilts of Valor began.

This year, the national group is expecting to award the 300,000th quilt to a veteran somewhere. The local Jefferson City Quilters awarded 196 quilts to Lakeway Area veterans in 2021, and, since their formation in 2012, have awarded 1,238 quilts. All of the work done on the quilts is voluntary, and the quilters supply their talents and all of the materials.

Van Orsdel continued to explain that every quilt is unique. The only thing that is standard is the size. She equates the three layers of a quilt to our bodies: the top, colorful layer is like our faces – each very different; the middle layer, the batting, is like our muscles and sinews of our bodies, which give the quilt form; and the back when stitched in place is like the skin which holds it all together. Every quilt is prayed over, and the name of the quilter is written on it. Van Orsdel said the quilters put a lot of love into each one.

Every quilt is prayed over, and the name of the quilter is written on the quilt. Van Orsdel said the quilters put a lot of love into each one.

Each quilt also represents three messages to the veteran who receives it: One, we honor you for your service and sacrifice for leaving all you hold dear to go stand in harm’s way in a time of crisis; two, we know that freedom is not free, that the cost of freedom is the dedication of lives of men and women like you, and this quilt is meant to say “Thank you”; and three, this quilt is meant to offer comfort and to remind you that, although your family cannot always be with you, you are forever in their thoughts and prayers.

After the presentations ended, Van Orsdel noted that the content of the folder that each veteran received included, among other things, a copy of the prayer that was said over the quilt and an Orphan Star. She explained that Orphan Stars start out as a field of blue meant for an American flag. However, if that field is flawed in any way during the production process, it cannot be used in a flag. Instead of being destroyed, the discarded fields of blue are sent to QOV and are repurposed into Orphan Stars. The stars are cut from these fields and used as a tangible reminder of what our veterans are. While such a star never has had the opportunity to fly in an American flag, it still individually is a good representation of our wounded warriors and stands for freedom, respect, pride, patriotism, and the American way of life.

More information about the Quilts of Valor Foundation is available on the website www.qovf.org. To learn more about the Jefferson City Quilters chapter of Quilts of Valor, call Group Leader Van Orsdel at (865) 262-8019. The group welcomes new quilters and monetary donations. The members meet on the third Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m. in the fellowship hall at the First United Methodist Church, 2011 Branner Avenue, Jefferson City.

Source: Submitted by Jane Busdeker