“The ceremony went very well and each time we do it we get a little bit better.”
Those words can be attributed to Denise Kearl, group leader of Pahrump’s Quilts of Valor.
On Saturday, the organization awarded more than 20 area veterans with personalized, patriotic handmade quilts.
The group’s mission since 2003, is to provide service members and veterans touched by war, with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.
Kearl became involved with the program after visiting a meeting in Las Vegas in 2014.
The recipients, she said, are selected by family and friends of veterans.
“They go to the website for the foundation where they submit a request online,” she said. “The request is then sent to the coordinator who lives in Las Vegas and she sends me the ones that live in Nye County. We awarded 22 veterans their quilts this year. They are all local veterans. Three were from Amargosa Valley and one was from Beatty.”
Kearl said each veteran was obviously quite appreciative of the gesture.
“This year we allowed them to share stories if they wanted to, which some of them did,” Kearl said. “They were all very thankful to the group for making the quilts and for welcoming them home. I have 35 members who work on the quilts.”
Kearl also said some of the Quilts of Valor members are also associated with Pahrump’s Shadow Mountain Quilters, as well.
“We meet the fourth Thursday of every month at the Bob Ruud Community Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” she said. “We have a very good team. Some of the ladies like to piece the quilts together and some of the other ladies like to do the actual quilting. We make as many quilts as we can and when we get a name in, we have two ceremonies each year around Armed Forces Day, which was Saturday. The next one will be Veterans Day.”
Last year, the group awarded 90 quilts to local veterans.
So far, Kearl said the group has created roughly 140 quilts.
“I initially didn’t know what to expect,” said Dr. Tom Waters, a Pahrump-area Air Force veteran.
Waters, who was a recipient on Saturday, served 32 years and six months on active duty in the military.
He said he learned about the group after inviting Kearl on his local television talk show.
“I have been talking to Denise for a while on that, and she was telling me about the Quilts of Valor. I had her explain what it was all about because I had never been to a ceremony, but the ceremony itself was just amazing.”
Waters’ name came to Kearl’s attention after his wife submitted his name to her.
“Denise contacted me and told me the date of the ceremony,” Waters said. “I just thought we would walk in, they would hand us our quilt and then we would just walk out. I did not expect that the quilts were custom-made for each recipient. They embroidered our name inside of it, and it is absolutely beautiful.”
During the ceremony, Waters admitted he became overcome with emotion.
He, along with his fellow veterans, were invited to say a few words about their respective military experiences.
“The ceremony was overwhelming and I didn’t realize or expect that,” he said. “I was the last one to get my quilt and I had more of a speech prepared to talk about several things that veterans are doing. One thing I failed to say during my speech was it’s up to the veterans of today to make sure that no veteran ever has to go through what the Vietnam veterans went through when we got home.”
Waters was referring to the negative reactions U.S. service members received both at home and abroad from civilians, mainly.
“We were told on base that when we got home not to wear our uniform off the base,” he said. “It was very bad and we just have to make sure that never happens again. We were blamed for something that our government made decisions to do. People, nowadays, it seems are opposed to war but not opposed to veterans. The atmosphere is changed and we really appreciate that.”
During his time on active duty, Waters said he experienced many deployments around the world.
“I had a lot of temporary duty in a lot of different countries, but I was never in Europe,” he recalled. “During the ceremony, I talked about the fact that I was a sergeant for many years then I rose up to the rank of master sergeant…I then went on to second lieutenant and then lieutenant colonel period even though I was offered a colonel position, it would mean I would have to stay about five additional years, and I chose not to do that.”
As Memorial Day approaches, Waters implored residents to be mindful of what the day actually represents.
He noted that Memorial Day is much deeper and thought-provoking than backyard barbecues and swimming pool parties.
“Memorial Day is a day to think about all the sacrifices that the brave men and women of the military have suffered over the years in order to retain our freedoms and all the things that we have in this country. We definitely need to remember the military no matter what we do, especially all of the veterans that are out there and all of the ones who did not return home. We really need to remember them.”
Regarding his newly bestowed Quilt of Valor, Waters said he will use it as the temperatures begin to drop later this year.
“My quilt is going to stay at home and I’m certainly going to use it,” he said. “They actually told us not to put it away, but to use it. They are giving it to us to be used. As the weather gets cooler, I will have it laying on my bed.”
Those who are interested in learning more about the Quilts of Valor organization can call 775-537-6477.
The website for Quilts of Valor is qovf.org
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes