Posted on Nov 7, 2018

Quilts of Valor Bring Comfort to V-CARE Students

Quilts of Valor Bring Comfort to V-CARE Students

A local quilters group presented its homemade creations to 22 USF College of Nursing student veterans on Monday as a way to offer comfort and a tangible thank-you for their military service.

The student veterans, all part of the college’s V-CARE cohort set to graduate in December, received the patriotic quilts during a Quilts of Valor recognition ceremony at the Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center.

V-CARE is an accelerated nursing program that allows medics and corpsmen to transition into a nursing career by offering credit for military training and education.

The recognition ceremony was part of a week of Veterans Day celebrations organized by the USF Office of Veteran Success. Two Vietnam veterans, Thomas Gates, a retired captain in the U.S. Air Force, and Eugene Powell, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, also received quilts.

Members of the December 2018 V-CARE graduating class attend the Quilts of Valor Recognition Event on Nov. 5.

Members of the Patriotic Quilters of Florida, the local chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, made the quilts handed out on Monday. The group has sewn and helped distribute more than 80 handcrafted creations to USF student veterans.

Jo Clark, a member of the quilting club, said the group meets monthly at the Oldsmar library to sew the quilts. Each one takes more than 60 hours to make.

“We are so honored to do this,” Clark told the crowd at the Quilts of Valor recognition event. “We love doing it. All of us basically came from patriotic families, so our hearts are invested in people who have served our country. It is our honor today to award you these quilts.”

Clark said the quilts were presented with three main goals in mind — honoring a veteran’s service, saying ‘thank-you’ to those who served, and bringing comfort to veterans so they never feel forgotten.

The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a nonprofit founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts whose son Nat was deployed in Iraq. The foundation coordinates with local quilting groups and quilt shops across the country who to supply the quilts. Since its inception, more than 200,000 quilts have been awarded to veterans.

The creations are made by volunteers and follow specific quilt-making dimensions. The first Quilt of Valor was awarded in November 2003 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg in Iraq.

Nursing student Sara Ortiz, who was a medic in the Army for four years and worked at a clinic serving soldiers, said she was humbled to receive the quilt and was grateful for the acknowledgement.

“Basically I see it as [the quilters] letting us know that there’s people out there who are also caring and looking after us,” Ortiz said. “Being a medic and being in the health care profession, we are the ones who typically care for people, so it’s nice to know there are people out there that also care for us and show us that we’re not forgotten.”

Nursing student Sara Ortiz holds up her quilt at the Quilts of Valor Recognition Event on Nov. 5.

Fellow cohort member Shon Henson said he was nice to attend a school that is so patriotic and openly supportive of veterans.

“It’s amazing that these ladies took the time and made all the effort to make these beautiful quilts,” Henson said. “With the detail of every stitch, you can tell how much love and care they put into putting it together. Each one is different and creative.”

Gates, who served as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, said he was accepting the quilt in honor of his best friend, Capt. John Bush, who was shot down in Vietnam and is still considered missing in action.

Thomas Gates, a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who served in the Vietnam War, accepts a quilt during the Quilts of Valor Recognition Event on Nov. 5.

“For those of you who know me, I’m normally not at a loss for words, but not today,” Gates said. “The true heroes are the 56,000 or so who didn’t make it. The rest of us were lucky. That was a very sad day for me and this is for him.”

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing