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Column #138

Home of the Brave Quilts

Photo courtesy of Cathy Kreter

Cathy Kreter, a professional longarm quilter from Riverside, California who serves as National Coordinator for the Home of the Brave Quilt Project, has no family members in the armed forces.

But she says, “I have a special spot in my heart for our servicemen and women. March Air Reserve Base is practically in my backyard, and my husband is a physician who trains military personnel in how to handle trauma in combat situations.”

For more than a decade, that “special spot” in Kreter’s heart has compelled her to donate her time, money, energy, and talent to ensuring that the families of men and women who have been killed in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan are comforted in a notable way: with a quilt.

It was in 2004 when Don Beld, a quilter who specializes in 19th-century reproduction quilts, came up with the idea of making quilts for the families of military casualties. Beld had been an anti-war protester during the Vietnam War era, but, later in life, regretted the way that America had treated veterans of that war.

He did not want the families of servicemen and women lost in Iraq and Afghanistan to feel that their loved ones’ sacrifice was not appreciated by the community at large. He decided to help alleviate that sense by gifting those families with an honor quilt.

Beld, who is an expert on Civil War quilts (he co-authored the book Civil War Quilts with Pam Weeks) had the idea of copying the hospital cot-sized quilts that were made by Northern women during the Civil War for the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the precursor of the American Red Cross.

Although between 250,000 and 400,000 Sanitary Commission quilts were believed to have been made for Union soldiers during the war, today only eight of them are known to be extant, and one of them is owned by the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands, California, not far from Beld’s home.

Beld thought that copying its pattern–an X with a white center, in repeating blocks, five down and three across–in reproduction fabrics would be an appropriate way to honor fallen military personnel of today’s wars.

Beld and Kreter both belong to the Citrus Belt Quilters, a guild that draws its 200+ members from quilters in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, also known as the Inland Empire area of Southern California.

When Beld presented his idea for Home of the Brave (HOTB) Quilts to the guild, Kreter immediately got involved, helping to make the first quilts presented to families in the area who had lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Beld, who travels and lectures extensively on quilts, started telling others about the project, and the effort began to attract press attention.

As word-of-mouth information on the project spread, people from outside California wanted to join the endeavor. Today, there are HOTB Quilt Projects in all 50 states and the U.S. Territories and the project has received national recognition, including the placement of a link on the official U.S. Department of Defense website for the military and their dependents.

The response–both from quilters throughout the country and from the families who have received the quilts–has been remarkable. In little more than a decade, 6,350 quilts have been delivered to 5,257 families. (Those numbers are as of writing this and change frequently.)

One of the most difficult and sensitive parts of the effort involves identifying the family members of the deceased.

“It requires a lot of detective work, and, of course we are careful to act within privacy laws,” Kreter says. “We always want the parents to receive a quilt, but if the parents are divorced, we need to make two quilts, one for each parent. Sometimes, an aunt or a grandparent raised the deceased, so they are the ones who get the quilt. In other cases, a spouse might receive the quilt. It all depends on the family situation.”

HOTB waits up to six months after a casualty is registered with the Department of Defense before attempting to identify the deceased’s family. Once that occurs, a quilt is made and delivered, along with a certificate and a condolence card. The letters of appreciation that the group has received show the deep comfort that the quilts provide their recipients.

It goes without saying that growth and success of this magnitude require a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes organizing. Kreter fills that role. She became the State Coordinator for California in 2004 and National Coordinator in 2011.

It’s a big job. In addition to quilting approximately one-third of the HOTB quilts for California, she acts as the information clearinghouse for all of the other states, responding to questions from other state coordinators as well as family members of the deceased, preparing certificates, and maintaining a database of all HOTB quilts, for whom they were made, and other information.

She stresses, however, that HOTB is a group effort, saying, “I am just one of many coordinators, and probably hundreds of quilters throughout the U.S. who have, are, and will be making quilts to honor the families of our fallen heroes.”

When asked why, as a professional with a thriving business, she devotes so much of her spare time to the Home of the Brave Quilt Project, Kreter is quick to respond.

“I have been so fortunate in my life. I feel a need to give back, and this is how I’ve chosen to do it. I have great admiration for our armed forces and I want they and their families to know that they are appreciated. It is my personal goal to see that at least one quilt goes to every single family who has lost a loved one in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.”


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Archived blogs:

Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor

See other archived columns here

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