Six area veterans awarded Quilts of Valor at ceremony held at Driftless Area Education and Visitor in Lansing

Quilts of Valor awarded to area veterans ... Six area veterans were awarded Quilts of Valor at a presentation that took place at the Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center Sunday, April 3. Pictured above at the Quilts of Valor presentation are: Left to right - Front row: Quilt creators Sue Lynch, Judy Schild, Edie Hogan; Back row: Quilt recipients Bill Rethwisch, Lanny Fields, Fred Rethwisch, Mike Bailey, Randy Sickles, Jerry Stussy. Submitted photo.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

Quilts of Valor were presented to six area veterans at the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center in Lansing Sunday afternoon, April 3. Recipients of the quilts included six local veterans who have been “touched by war,” according to event organizers, and those veterans included: Bill Rethwisch, Jerry Stussy,  Fred Rethwisch,  Randy Sickles,  Mike Bailey and Lanny Fields.

Bill  Rethwisch began his service in 1965 on an old WWII destroyer. He went to Vietnam and served as a boiler operator.

Jerry Stussy served beginning in 1987. He served in the U.S. Air Force for four years and then went into the National Guard for nine years.

Fred  Rethwisch served from 1972-1974 in the U.S. Army in Korea for 16 months. His duties included driving a truck, transporting materials.

Randy Sickles served in the U.S. Army and National Guard. He served in South America, the Middle East, the Gulf War and Iraq.

Mike Bailey served in the U.S. Navy for 20.5 years, beginning in 1975. He had six deployments all over the world. He worked as a boiler operator.

Lanny Fields joined the U.S. Army from 1972-1975 and worked on numerous jobs dealing with tanks. He served in Europe during most of his tour of duty.

Quilts of Valor is a national organization which was begun in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, who wanted to create a quilt to give a special hug to her son who was deployed in Iraq. She had a dream where she pictured her son being comforted by a quilt which enveloped him.

From that small beginning, Quilts of Valor has grown to an organization of over 10,000 volunteers who work to create these special keepsakes which are to be awarded to veterans who have been “touched by war” in some way. These volunteers are part of 600 groups of quilters in all 50 states.

Roberts felt that each quilt needs to be “awarded”  during a presentation which states: “Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation.” Currently, 299,246 quilts have been awarded. This number is expected to reach over 300,000 within a few months.

Each quilt must be made sewn by hand or machine and must consist of entirely new material. They typically carry out a patriotic theme. No quilt may be purchased, they are only awarded. Recipients must be living veterans who have been “touched by war” in some way.

There is an application process but anyone can nominate a veteran who has been touched by war by filling out the application form. Forms may be found on the website at

All materials and labor are donated by the volunteers or paid for by donations to the group, which is a non-profit organization. Sue Lynch, one of the area group leaders who meets with quilters in several communities, works with the Lansing quilters, Judy Schild and Edie Hogan, at the Picket Fence in Prairie du Chien, WI the first Friday of every month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Volunteers may join them at any time.

No skill level is necessary because other volunteers will help people learn the process, which involves picking fabric and a pattern, cutting pieces, sewing the pieces together into the quilt blocks which create the quilt top, and then the batting and backing are stitched with a long arm quilting machine. The final steps include trimming and binding the edges and washing the quilts.

When the process is complete, a label which includes the veteran’s name and the date of presentation is affixed. It takes approximately 10-15 yards of material and typically takes about 30-40 hours to make. Often, volunteers take sections with them to finish at home.  Lynch, Schild and Hogan have all been involved with the program for approximately nine years. Each agrees that they feel rewarded for their efforts by the love and gratitude shown by the veterans.

Lynch stated, “The top with the patterns and colors represents the many communities involved. Each stitch represents the love, gratitude and tears of the quilter. The batting represents the warmth of the hug which comforts and offers peace and healing. The backing represents strength to hold all the pieces together. There are often tears as we present the Quilt of Valor, which represents the love and gratitude that we are giving to them for serving their country. It is a privilege and an honor to be a part of this group. We wrap them in the quilt as a big hug from a grateful nation.”

For more information about participating as a volunteer or nominating a veteran, contact Sue Lynch at 608-306-0924.