How a quilt bridged my personal civilian-military divide
(Photo: Pixabay)

My children came home from summer camp with a handmade quilt.

They didn’t make it themselves. Each military child who attended the camp received a quilt from the Seven Stars Foundation. To my children, their quilts are a beautiful gift and a reminder of a fun time at camp. But for me, the quilts represent much more. Those quilts give me hope that there are Americans who care about and support our military.

It’s easy to be negative. Military families experience negativity all the time–from civilians, friends, and sometimes family members. Being part of a community that represents only one percent of the American population, as the military currently does, can make a military spouse feel isolated and misunderstood.

Most military spouses have encountered negativity at some point during their service member’s career. Maybe it was a well-meaning neighbor who asked why we are still involved in “that stupid war.” Perhaps it was a judgmental family member who wanted to know why the spouse is unemployed and preparing to move even farther away. Or maybe it was one of many articles online claiming that the military makes too much money and spouses are sucking up too many benefits. These negative comments may be small and sometimes we can brush them off, but over time, the weight of negativity hangs on a military spouse’s shoulders.

It is easy for military spouses to turn inward until they are only interacting with the community on base. After all, no one understands the struggle of being a military spouse like a fellow military spouse. Finding support in the military community is great, but it can also make a spouse believe the worst of the civilian population.

That’s why my children’s quilts are so important. Someone took the time to think of military children, and to hand-stitch a quilt for each one attending the summer camp. This goes above and beyond generic support for the military. They didn’t just hang a flag or a sign or mumble “thank you for your service.” These citizens aren’t just grudgingly offering a military discount on Veteran’s Day. Instead, they donated hours of their time to create something unique and meaningful. Each quilt represents a true act of love and generosity.

When I read the handwritten note that accompanied each quilt, I was moved to tears. It said, “This quilt was made especially for you. When we were sewing the quilt, we did not know who would receive it. But God knew. And he chose you! Our sewing group of about 12 ladies in East Texas and Louisiana have enjoyed making your quilt. As each stitch was sewn, we said a prayer for you. There are so many others that have donated fabric and supplies because they wanted to be a part of helping make you smile.”

I have no idea who these ladies are, but their sewing group has touched me and changed the way I think about America. I often feel like we live in a divided country, where everyone has different opinions and expressing yourself can cause you to confront hatred and criticism.

Being a military family in some parts of the country can be frustrating and isolating. Military service is a burden that the whole family carries, even my children. Because of my husband’s military service, there are times my children have faced judgment or discrimination. It can sometimes feel as if military families are fighting their battles alone.

The quilts from the Seven Stars Foundation changed my perspective. They show that somewhere out there are people who care about military families and military children. Someone cared enough to donate fabric for a quilt. Someone else wanted to support us by cutting that fabric into hundreds of quilt squares. 12 ladies cared enough to spend hours sewing those squares and writing cards to the strangers who would receive them. In a moment, those 12 ladies wiped out years of negative comments and criticisms from the civilian community. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but in the case of these quilts, the sewing needle is mightier than the critics.

I thank that sewing group for touching our lives. We may never meet, but I hope you will someday learn what a positive impression you made on this military family.