A group known as QUILTS - Quilters United in Learning Together Schenectady – is giving back to our troops this holiday season. QUILTS is participating in the Quilts for Injured Soldiers project this year, a initiative that provides quilts to troops returning from a deployment.

This year, more than 70 handmade blankets and quilts will be shipped to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Pat Baker of Hughesville, Maryland is the Quilts for Injured Soldiers chairwoman, and says “it’s like Christmas every day when a box comes in.”

Christina Powell, a member of QUILTS, has already completed close to 30 quilts for the project.

“I heard at our quilting guild meeting that somebody wanted to organize this and get it started in our area, and thought ‘I can do that,’” said Powell, who has been quilting for 25 years. “The more I did, the more I wanted to do.”

Powell’s latest quilt is a bed quilt with a patriotic theme. “We have the red, white and the blue, and the stars and the stripes. It’s perfect, don’t you think?”

“Our servicemen need to know that it’s not just their family and friends that are supporting them. There’s a whole country rooting for them, and I’m one,” Powell said.

Powell continues to quilt for the troops because she genuinely worries about our servicemen and women, saying “I don’t like seeing so many young people go away and come back wounded.”

Like Pat Baker, the project’s founder, Powell says she is just trying “to do what I can do” for the members of our military.

Initially, Baker and the members of the Quilters Guild of Southern Maryland were the only individuals quilting for the troops, but when they realized that the number of injured troops was increasing, they decided to place an ad in a popular quilting magazine. The response was overwhelming.

“People from all over the United States, Canada and even Australia have donated quilts,” Baker states.

The quilters who provide blankets to the project typically quilt with a military theme, some even creating quilts for the specific military branches, because, as Baker says, “you don’t necessarily want to give an Army guy a Marine-themed quilt.”

Once Baker receives the quilts, volunteers from the Red Cross deliver the quilts to Andrews Air Force Base. Returning troops receive their quilt, along with a letter that thanks them for the dedication and service.

The quilt created by Christina Powell was gifted to Pfc. Jonathan Winker, a member of the Wisconsin National Guard. He returned from a tour in Iraq with a bruised leg and a crushed foot. Winker similar quilts on the beds of wounded soldiers while in military hospitals and medical centers, and said that “all of them are really beautiful.”

“It’s a great way to say ‘thank you’ to the wounded,” Winker believes. Winker plans to keep his quilt in his bedroom, so that it is near to him at all times. On the back of his quilt, Powell sewed a small patch that reads:

“Thank you for your service to our country. This is a small token of appreciation for all that you have been through. My prayers for you are contained in this quilt.”

[a video pertaining to this story can be viewed by visiting the CNN website]

With Christmas right around the corner, let us remember the men and women who are serving our great country. Let us also remember our veterans, including those who are suffering from illnesses or injuries sustained during their time in the military.

Many, many veterans – especially those who served in the Navy – were exposed to asbestos while serving our country. WWII-era vets are especially at risk, but military asbestos exposure remains a health and safety issue for the men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exposed to asbestos is the only conclusive cause of mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that takes the lives of 3,000 Americans annually. Many of these individuals are veterans. While all members of the military are considered to have been at risk of asbestos exposure, the number of mesothelioma navy cases remains the highest.

Donations for the troops

If you are interested in donating to a worthy military-related organization this holiday season, please visit our Twitter page and check out all of the organizations we are following. You can have your pick of some really great veteran-focused groups. Please visit twitter.com/veteransblog.