Group's Quilts Get Cameo on 'Army Wives'

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C., May 9, 2008 - They didn't have any lines, and if it weren't for their bright colors against the spartan background of a C-17 Globemaster's cargo bay, quilts produced by the South Carolina Quilts of Valor troop-support organization might have gone unnoticed.

But their cameo appearance in a scene of Lifetime Network's military drama "Army Wives," however, reflects the importance the quilts have in the lives of real servicemembers.

Susan Thomas, president of the quilt-making group, said Air Force Reserve Capt. Wayne Capps, public affairs officer for the 315th Airlift Wing here, suggested to the show's staff that they use her organization's quilts in a scene while coordinating details of the May 5 filming here of parts of the upcoming season's fourth episode.

"It's just so inspiring, just to know that somebody cares enough to say, 'We want to show this,'" she said.

When their 15 minutes of fame ended, the quilts were boxed up and sent overseas with a note letting recipients know about their quilts' star status.

South Carolina Quilts of Valor is part of the national Quilts of Valor Foundation that started four years ago. The mission of the foundation, and all its chapters, is to cover every wounded servicemember with a quilt to let them know how much they're appreciated.

In the three and a half years since it began, the South Carolina chapter has completed 660 of the quilts, ranging from 50 by 60 inches to 62 by 72 inches in size, just right for use on the litters used to transport wounded warriors on aeromedical airlift flights.

The nearly 30 group members spend about three weeks and a little over $100 to create each heirloom-quality quilt, using only quilt store fabric and a particular kind of batting that ensures they're soft and will hold up to the rigors of a hospital stay.

Despite the seemingly small number of quilters in the chapter, their quilts are anything but cookie-cutter.

"We send a variety," Thomas said. "In fact, [an Army chaplain] sent me an e-mail after he received his box and ... said, 'I love to turn your boxes upside-down and watch the colors fall out.'"

The differing patterns do more than keep one quilt from looking like the next, Thomas said. The pattern name often is included on the label, which raises some curiosity in the recipients.

Two quilt recipients have told the group that they go online to look at the organization's Web site and to research the history of the pattern. "It gives them something to do in the hospital," Thomas explained.

While she never knows where her group's quilts will end up when they're shipped overseas, Thomas said she knows for a fact that they have a huge impact on the recipients.

The half dozen quilts used in the "Army Wives" episode theoretically will end up at the fictional Fort Marshall, where the show is set. But their real impact will be much broader. They not only will bring comfort to real servicemembers, but also will shine a spotlight on Quilts of Valor Foundation's less-recognized chapters, Thomas said.

"Army Wives" second season begins June 8 at 10 p.m. on Lifetime Network.

*Related Sites:*
Quilts of Valor Foundation  [ ]
Group's Quilts Get Cameo on 'Army Wives' [ ]