By Brenda Sexton-The Courier-Herald
Those visiting the Quilts of Valor Foundation Web site can see the impact a simple gesture like the gift of a handmade, beautifully-stitched, high-quality quilt, can make on a wounded soldier.
A page is filled with tributes like, “My quilt isn’t another military medal to be placed in a box and sat on my shelf, but something that was given to me by a woman that I may never have the pleasure of meeting, just because she cared…I was moved to tears…”
The soldier who wrote those words received a Purple Heart because of his injuries, but it is the love and warmth sewn into every stitch of his quilt that he said brings him comfort.
Or, there’s the story of a wounded soldier who kept his quilt close and found comfort and peace in it as he carried it, and wrapped up in it, on military flights and hospitals on his road to recovery.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Katherine (Zech) Kioshi knows first-hand the stories and the impact the Quilts of Valor program has on these military men and women. As a nurse in the 18-bed intensive care unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, an Army hospital in Germany, for the past year, she had another duty - quilt coordinator and European liaison for Quilts of Valor.
“My role was to ensure 100 percent of the ICU patients were covered,” said the 1982 Enumclaw High School graduate, who was commissioned in 1992.
That is the mission of Quilts of Valor - to cover all war wounded, physically or psychologically, and injured servicemembers and veterans from the most recent wars. But, truly, the goal is to never have to hand a blanket out.
During war that’s a lofty target, but Kioshi said she was presenting less quilts near the end of her tour than at the beginning. Through her one-year stay in Germany, Kioshi estimates she handed out 400 to 500 quilts. Quilts of Valor estimates, in the past four years, it has awarded more than 12,000 Quilts of Valor.
“The impact that these quilts have on patients is profound,” Kioshi said.
Kioshi said many of her patients weren’t able to acknowledge the gift, but those who could “were eternally grateful.”
“These quilts are amazing,” she said. “This organization is amazing.”
Quilts of Valor is a nonprofit organization that coordinates quilt makers across the country who produce heirloom-quality pieces to present to wounded soldiers. Many are red, white and blue with a patriotic display, but many more are quilts in a rainbow of colors and themes. The Quilts of Valor Web site is a starting point for anyone who is interested in creating quilts for the program, or donating fabric or funds to the cause.
Kioshi, who is in Enumclaw briefly visiting family before heading to the Portland Veterans Affairs Hospital where she will work in the ICU unit, spoke at Thursday’s Enumclaw Rotary luncheon trying to drum up support for her new-found interest. She had with her a quilt, given to her by the organization for her commitment to the program in appreciation for her selfless service at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
“Every person I took care of was a hero,” Kioshi said. “My husband and I have a new charity.”
For information, go to the Quilts of Valor Foundation Web site at www.qovf.org.