Quilts for Troops

FISK AND the Addison County Milk and Honey Quilters Guild has completedsix red, white and blue quilts that they are donating to woundedsoldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The quilts are on displayat the Ilsley Library in Middlebury through July.Independent photo/Trent Campbell

July 16, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — Setting aside politics for a moment to pick up needle andthread, quilters in Addison County found a non-partisan way to supportwounded troops back from Iraq: They collaborated on six homemadequilts, which they plan to send to soldiers at Walter Reed Army MedicalCenter in Washington, D.C.

At the suggestion of Charlotte Fisk, the Middlebury Milk and HoneyQuilters’ Guild about a year ago joined a nationwide effort calledQuilts of Valor, which seeks to comfort wounded soldiers with homemadeblankets.

The six finished quilts, now on display in the lobby of IlsleyLibrary in Middlebury, are variations on a theme: red, white and blue,each with an appliquéd purple heart, and small enough to tuck over asoldier’s lap in a wheelchair. A larger seventh quilt is at the centerof the display and will be raffled off on Labor Day Weekend to coverthe shipping cost of the others.

“The quilts go primarily to the paralyzed soldiers or amputees,”Fisk said. “We are going to put a label on them that says, ‘Withgratitude, the Middlebury Milk and Honey Quilters.’”

Fisk learned about Quilts of Valor from her friend, Kay Bergquist atthe Rutland Maple Leaf Quilters’ Guild, which has in the past couple ofyears donated 50 quilts to Walter Reed.

“It seemed to be a reasonable way to help,” Fisk said. “I was so upsetabout the war, and I felt so terribly about all the dreadful injuries.”

Milk and Honey’s quilts are made up of individual saw-tooth and Ohiostar blocks. Members of the guild each contributed a block and Fisk andBergquist did the backing and quilting. Fisk estimates at least 30people participated, including a handful of anonymous quilters shesuspects heard about the project by word-of-mouth.

“There were people who came into the quilting shop in New Haven withsquares, who just said, ‘Give these to Charlotte.’ I have no idea wherethree or four of these stars came from, but we gratefully acceptedthem.”

For Fisk, the tragedy of war hit home nearly 40 years ago during theVietnam war, when her friend and Fuller Brush salesman, Fred, made anunexpected visit to her home one morning. He came in with shouldershunched and his head down.

“I said to him, ‘Fred, what’s wrong?’ And he just looked at me kindof hollow-eyed… So we sat down at my kitchen table and I got him coffeeand he looked at me and said, ‘Jimmy’s dead.’ That was his son, theironly son. He died on Hamburger Hill, an area they took three times. Onthe third time, that’s when this kid — 19 years old — died.”

“There’s something about seeing somebody who’s actually lost someonelike that; I just can’t imagine what it would be like,” she said.

Milk and Honey still has two quilts in the works, but Fisk noted thereis no cutoff date for sending them to Walter Reed. “As long as theykeep fighting in Iraq,” she said, there is a need.

“If this keeps going on forever,” she started, and then stopped. “Ihope we can finally get through this. Soon. Immediately. Yesterday.”

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