by Patty Cheffey
For Gene Ash and Danny Hendon, the July 4, 2023 weekend proved to be quite a moving experience.
While their quilts are different, both men expressed surprise by the gift from their niece.
“It was a shock,” said Gene Ash. “It is beautiful, and it will be one thing we’ll honor for the rest of our lives.”
“I felt honored she thought enough of us to make us quilts,” said Hendon.
According to Courtney Ash, Quilts of Valor are made to comfort service men and woman and veterans. A recipient has to be a living service member or a veteran, as the quilt cannot be given in memory of a deceased veteran.
“A Quilt of Valor cannot be sold or bought,” said Courtney. “They cannot be given as a gift (birthday or Christmas) as Quilts of Valor are awarded.”
In addition, there are certain requirements as to the type of fabric and the finished size, she said.
Courtney, who has been quilting for 10 years, learned about the Quilt of Valor when purchasing a longarm quilting machine.
“The dealers spoke of a man named Andrew Lee, who is known as The Combat Quilter. He is a veteran who served two deployments in Iraq, and to help cope with his PTSD, he quilts,” she said. “I began following him on Facebook and learned that he made Quilts of Valor…..my new heartfelt hobby was born!”
Courtney is only one of several quilters who made up the Quilts of Valor Foundation, and unlike some, she selects who she wants to present a quilt to based on the requirements of the foundation.
“I quilt for the heros I know personally,” Courtney said. “That’s why Uncle Gene (Ash) and Uncle Danny (Hendon) were selected; because they are my personal heroes.”
Gene Ash, who was a corporal, joined the Marine Corps in March 1964 and served until March 1968, during which time he served two tours in Vietnam, mainly in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), helping with medical evacs and getting aircraft ready to drop bombs.
He was also stationed in San Diego, El Toro, Buford S.C., Cherry Point, N.C. and numerous ports overseas in Japan, Thailand and Guam to name a few.
Hendon was a member of the United States Navy from 1964 until 1968, having joined almost immediately after high school.
He had three cruises in Vietnam, doing fire runs.
“That’s where you go in, fire everything you’ve got at them, then get out as fast as you can when they shoot back,” he explained. “I wasn’t up front and personal like Gene was.”
Hendron was also stationed in Norfolk, Va., Great Lakes, Ill. and Long Beach, Calif., where he was stationed on his first ship and spent a lot of his enlistment.
It is because of her love for her uncles and what they did for this country, Courtney Ash is honored to make Quilts of Valor, not only for them, but for others.
“I love making Quilts of Valor. There are no words to describe my feelings of being able to give a Quilt of Valor to a service member or veteran,” she said. “They sacrificed so much to make sure of the safety and freedom of our country.
“I personally don’t think there’s anything anyone can say or do to repay their service to our country, but we can show them they are greatly appreciated, loved and never forgotten.”
Courtney said before she can award a quilt, she has to verify they have never received one. She also said she would respect the wishes of those who do not want a quilt. Although that has not happened to her, it does happen.
“Before I reveal their quilt, I thank them for their service and the sacrifice that they made for our country, on behalf of all those who know and love them, as well as those who have never meet them,” she said.
Gene Ash noted the day he received his, he thought his niece was only there for a visit seen they had not seen each other for awhile.
“We were just talking, and she said she had to go out to her car for something. She came back carrying this tote,” he said. “She was asking if we had heard about the Quilt of Valor, then said she had one for Danny and me.”
While the fabric is the same for both quilts, the designs are different, something Courtney said she does with every quilt, making sure no two are ever alike.
“I found fabric that I really liked and started making two just to see what the same fabric would look in two different patterns. One had a wave and one the red was more prominent,” she said. “Then it came to me when I was in the middle of making them, I have two uncles who fought in Vietnam. Gene – Marine (I think of red when I think of Marines) and Danny – Navy (waves). The quilts ‘picked’ the recipients.”
These were also not the first quilts Courtney has presented, noting she has done 100 percent of the work on them. However, at the time she is making them, she is unsure who will receive a quilt.
“I have a list of individuals for whom I would like to make one, but not one particular person, she said, noting the quilt, like the ones she gave her uncles will ‘pick’ the recipient.
“The first QOV I made was made with a panel that was orange with the silhouette of soldiers. No clue who it was for,” she said. “After it was completed, it was decided to be awarded to my boyfriend’s friend who had presented him years ago with a flag that was flown in an Apache helicopter on a mission.
“After the quilt was awarded to him, he tells us that the first night on his first tour of duty he went outside to watch the sunset, and the quilt reminded him of that first sunset on his first tour of duty! The quilt just ‘knew’ who it was for.”