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A group of Central Missouri seamstresses with a passion for quilt making have a special mission: to create “Quilts of Valor” for retired and active members of the armed forces.

On July 6, a special ceremony was held at Satin Stitches, 705 Vandiver Drive in Columbia, where these quilts were presented to eleven individuals who have previously served the country in either the Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force, as well as one individual currently serving in the Army.

This is the third such ceremony for the Mid-Missouri Quilts of Valor at Satin Stitches this year, and with 47 quilts already on the program, more are expected. Quilt presentations also take place in Mexico, Missouri. The last ceremony there was on June 28.

Quilts of Valor is a nationwide nonprofit foundation with over 625 groups or quilt shops under the foundation’s umbrella, at least 10 of which are based in Missouri. Satin Stitches is the quilt shop associated with Quilts of Valor and even its sewing machine repair specialist was honored for its service to the country at the July 6 ceremony.

When the quilts were presented, everyone elicited loud “oohs” and “ahs.”

Quilts of Valor honors the service of veterans

The 12 honorees included Sid Lea, who served in the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1980 and as a reservist in the U.S. Army National Guard from 1986 to 2002, and Shannon Smith, who was one of the first women in security in the U.S. Air Force and guarded Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missiles from 1989 to 1993.

Lea’s services included repairing small and heavy equipment and other technical tasks.

“I think it’s great what these ladies do for us. They do their best,” he said, adding that his father served in the infantry in the Korean War. “I spent most of my regular Army years in Germany. After that, I was with the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.”

During his time with the National Guard, he was stationed in Honduras, Panama, Germany, and even on a project in Alaska.

“We built a road up there for an Indian reservation. We still got around a lot with the National Guard. I was in an engineer unit,” Lea said, adding that his unit has since changed its purpose to bridge building.

After his service, he worked as a construction machine operator and mechanic until he gave up his civilian job.

Smith was honored to receive a quilt. Nominees don’t know what the quilt will look like, but Smith’s quilt, with its antique and cadet blue color scheme and an eagle motif in the center, will have special meaning for her family.

“Serving in the military was one of my greatest experiences – I always wanted to be in the military,” she said, adding that her father was a Vietnam veteran. “The women in our family, the Dolly Parton song ‘Eagle When She Flies’ is the song for the women in our family. When I saw that, I started thinking about all the women in my family. I thought, ‘How fitting. They didn’t even know me and they picked out this quilt.’ It fits me perfectly. If you could describe me in a quilt, that would be the perfect one.”

To guard the missiles, there was a main house near one of the silos where Smith and others stayed for three and a half days. When an alarm went off in one of the other silos, Smith and others from the team would go out to check that everything was safe and secure. Smith was one of the first 100 women in security and ten of them were at her air base.

“Often there were protesters we escorted away,” Smith said, adding that the missiles were deactivated in favor of the B-2 bomber in 1993. “It was special to be able to serve at the end of the Cold War era and be one of the few female police officers on the base.”

“It was pretty nice to be in that group of women because they were great women.”

Local quilt makers have been part of the program for a decade

At least three of the quilts featured on July 6 were made by June Rae Wood, who has been making Quilts of Valor for a decade.

She makes up to 35 quilts a year and has made 373 quilts for veterans, typically using a kaleidoscope pattern for her quilts. Wood lives in the Windsor area and read an article in the Sedalia Democrat newspaper about a Quilt of Valor presented to a veteran.

“I read the article and loved it,” Wood said, adding that she found a website and contacted us through the “contact us” section. Someone wrote back and told her the quilt requirements: Quilts must be made of cotton fabric, all are 60″ by 80″ and the patterns are any pattern. Quilts generally have a red, white and blue color theme.

Wood got a supply of cotton quilting fabric with American flags on it from her mother. She made her first Quilt of Valor and sent it off. She didn’t hear from him for a few months and was worried that her quilt wouldn’t go over well with the group.

“I was horrified that they thought I had desecrated the flag. Then one day I got a call from a lady thanking me. I asked if it was OK and she said, ‘Oh yes, it was beautiful.’ So I’ve been doing it ever since,” Wood said.

The kaleidoscope pattern that Wood uses involves stacking at least six matching pieces of fabric on top of each other. These are then cut into wide strips. These strips are cut into triangles, and then this stack of six triangles, all with the same fabric pattern, is arranged to form the quilt block. Wood can sew a quilt from start to finish every one to two weeks.

“It’s a small price to pay for what all these veterans have done for us,” Wood said.

From 2020: Audrain County veterans honored with Quilts of Valor

The Story of Quilts of Valor

The Quilts of Valor Foundation was founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts after she had a dream while her son was serving in Iraq.

Even though the person in the dream was not necessarily her son, she saw a young man huddled in despair on a bed.

“I could see his war demons gathering around him and dragging him emotionally into the gutter,” Roberts said in an informational brochure.

Then the dream scene changed to the man being wrapped in a blanket and his behavior changing from despair to hope.

As of May 31, over 393,000 quilts had been distributed. The foundation reached the 100,000 milestone in 2014 and had set a goal of reaching 500,000 in 2023.

Charles Dunlap covers local politics, community stories and other general issues for the Tribune. Reach him at [email protected] or @CD_CDT on X, formerly Twitter. Subscribe to support important local journalism.