Five Rotary Club of Murfreesboro veterans were recently presented with Quilts of Valor in honor of their service to this country as the club celebrated veterans during the month of November. The honorees were George Pope, who served on a PT boat during World War II; Bob Jones who served in the Navy from 1964 until 1970: John Calfee, who also served in the Navy from 1966 until 1979; Pete Neff who served in the Air Force from 1968 until 1997; and Bob Farris who served from 1955 until 1985 in the Army.
Honorees must be nominated through the Quilt of Valor Foundation. Each quilt presented is hand made with either hand or machine quilting by one of more than 11,000 volunteer quilt makers, many of whom are Blue Star Mothers. The quilts are awarded to a service member or veteran who has been touched by war to provide comfort, healing and appreciation for their “sacrifice in serving our nation”. So far, more than 286,000 quilts have been awarded.
The foundation was started in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, whose son was deployed to Iraq. The idea came to her in a dream. “The dream was as vivid as real life,” Roberts explains on the Foundation website. “I saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter. Then, as if 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 well-being. The quilt had made this dramatic change. The message of my dream was: Quilts equal Healing.”
Quilts of Valor may not be purchased, given as a gift, raffled or sold. They can only be awarded. Each quilt is a specific size, follows one of 31 approved patterns, is labeled with specific information, and each award ceremony is recorded. Quilts of Valor District Coordinator Janice Lewis presented the quilts to each of the Rotary honorees with the help of friends and/or wives of the honoree.
During the month of November, each honoree shared a little of their life in the military. World War II veteran George Pope was 16 years old when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He wanted to sign up right away, but he had to wait until he turned 18. By then, he had a finished high school and had a year of college under his belt. First, he went to V-12 Officer’s Training School at Cornell University, then fire fighter’s school in Boston, followed by Sub-Chaser training in Miami. Finally, he was assigned to a PT boat, which was made out of wood.
“The boat was 80 feet long,” explained Pope, “and it displaced 60 tons of water. One of the most important parts of the training I got out of everything was how to steer the boat. Being able to park that thing was a real accomplishment. Bad driving could mess things up real [sic] bad.”
John Calfee enlisted his sophomore year of college. He graduated and was commissioned into the Navy on June 10, 1966. Five days later he was married, and is still married 54 years later to the same woman. He didn’t go to sea right away, he spent 13 months on dry land going through various schools.
On June 1, 1968, Pete Neff graduated from college. On July 1, he was commissioned into the Air Force, and 14 months later he found himself in Viet Nam. His unit supported Special Forces, chopping runways that were 30 feet wide and 1,000 feet long out of the jungle.
“We had austere living,” said Neff, “but nothing like the Special Forces guys. They lived in the trees.”
Bob Jones tells the story of joining the Navy, and then being stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, less than 110 miles away from his family home.
Former Rotary Assistant District Governor for District 6760, Phil Barnett, will soon be receiving his Quilt of Valor from the Club. He was also in the Navy. During his time in the Navy he saw the world and was “baptized” into the Neptune Club when he crossed the equator for the first time. The ceremony included wearing his clothing and underwear inside out and performing some interesting rituals that involved fruit and motor oil.
While the honorees shared much of the humor involved with their time in the service, they all also saw the dark side of military life. These quilts are a way to honor them for stepping “forward to ensure a way of life is protected for their fellow citizens,” said current Quilts of Valor Executive Director Tammany McDaniel on their website. “They give up their freedom, time at home with loved ones, make other sacrifices and ultimately have no guarantee of safety. For me, that is valorous and I am grateful/”