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Quilts of Valor

Minot woman awards quilts to veterans

Submitted Photo Fred Gantzer is an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and was awarded a Quilt of Valor for his service and was welcomed home.

Laurie Gotvaslee is seven years into making Quilts of Valor for veterans of war of all branches.

When she is not busy as the director of North Central Human Service Center, she is making quilts for the military veterans who survived wars, going all the way back to those who served in World War II, and as recent as serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, whose son was deployed in Iraq. Roberts started the Quilts of Valor Foundation from a vivid dream she had. “I saw a young man who was sitting on the edge of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. … I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter,” Roberts said. “Then, as if I was 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 wellbeing.”

The message of her dream was that quilts heal the internal wounds that war and destruction leave behind. It started with a group of volunteers who would work on making them, and they are quality quilts. Gotvaslee described receiving a Quilt of Valor as the civilian equivalent of receiving a Purple Heart. When the quilts are received, the vet is wrapped in their quilt and thanked for their service in combat.

Gotvaslee works with the Quilts of Valor Foundation, makes the quilts by hand and awards them to those that are nominated to receive them. She got her first longarm machine from a Minnesota vendor at the quilting festival in 2013. Upon purchasing her new piece of equipment, she traveled to Minnesota for two days to learn how to use the longarm and get started on making quilts.

The place where she was doing her training had patriotic quilts on their machines and she asked what they were for. Quilt of Valor’s cause was explained to her and she developed an interest in it because her father was a World War II veteran.

Gotvaslee finished a quilt and went online to see who it would be awarded to, and it was actually to be awarded to her husband’s cousin through the Granville American Legion. Upon finding that two of her neighbors were to be nominated too, she made two more quilts. All three veterans were to be awarded their quilts at the same time during a surprise Legion meeting. Unfortunately, because it was a surprise, only her husband’s cousin, who served in Vietnam, was able to attend.

Gotvaslee has made quilts for veterans of all branches of the military and from several wars. They include, but are not limited to, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are 60-inches by 80-inches and are made form 100% cotton. Each one may take her from two to three weeks to complete, working on it for an hour or two a day.

A story she recalled was that of a veteran who was described as a talker, always having something to say. However, when he was awarded his quilt and it was wrapped around him, tears flowed to his eyes and he admitted that he didn’t have the words to describe what he was feeling.

A Vietnam veteran who received a Quilt of Valor was a member of her church he didn’t know he was going to be receiving it. He was thanked for his service and welcomed home. As some veterans experience terrible and devastating events, they can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Due to the PTSD, they may have a hard time letting the war go, no matter how many years had passed. The veteran sent his quilt’s creator a letter of thanks and told her that “after holding his quilt for two hours, he was able to finally let Vietnam go.”

“They’re healing quilts,” Gotvaslee said. “They really are.”

One veteran had an extremely difficult time with the events he witnessed in Vietnam, so he never talked about his experiences overseas. He was treated horribly when he returned home from the war, most likely because “people thought that (America) wasn’t supposed to be involved in Vietnam,” Gotvaslee said.

She and her husband went to the veteran’s house and awarded him his quilt. The quilt helped him heal enough in just an evening and he told them about what his experiences in Vietnam were like. Later in the evening after she and her husband had left, Gotvaslee received a text from the veteran that he would cherish it forever and was very grateful.

Since joining Quilts of Valor in 2013, she has awarded 33 quilts. From the start in 2003, a total of 248,921 quilts have been made and awarded.

Gotvaslee encourages those who wish to nominate someone to receive a Quilt of Honor to do so on their website, qovf.org.

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