By Brett Peruzzi, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Some veterans in Westborough are getting a warm, colorful, and very useful item to recognize their service to their country.
Thanks to Quilts of Valor, a national foundation, dozens of World War II veterans in town have recently been awarded with a handmade quilt. The quilts are often dominated with the red, white and blue colors of the American flag. They’re all made by volunteers, according to John Gallinaugh, a US Navy veteran who works for the Central Massachusetts Veterans Service District. He also serves as secretary of the Westborough Veterans’ Advisory Board.
“Most recipients become emotional [when they receive the quilt],” he explained, “because of the recognition of their sacrifice.”
Idea inspired by son’s service in Iraq
The tradition started in 2003 when Catherine Roberts of Delaware’s son Nathaniel was deployed to Iraq for a year.
She came up with the idea of awarding a quilt to all returning servicemen and women touched by war. What began as a small project in her sewing room then turned into a non-profit foundation.
“I knew a Quilt of Valor had to be a quality-made quilt, not a ‘charity quilt,’” said Roberts in a recounting of the history of the organization on its website.
“A Quilt of Valor had to be quilted, not tied, which meant hand or machine quilting,” she said. “It would be ‘awarded,’ not just passed out like magazines or videos and would say unequivocally, ‘Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation.’”
Quilts of Valor is comprised of over 10,000 volunteer members in 600 groups representing all 50 states. The organization has made and awarded over 270,000 quilts throughout the US and overseas.
The quilts have traveled to war zones and been awarded on aircraft carriers at sea. Most, though, are awarded in communities across the United States.
The foundation has inspired similar organizations in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Others are also emerging in New Zealand and South Korea.
At any given time, the US foundation has about 10,000 nominations for quilts it is working to fulfill. Things such as the era of service, the life circumstances and the nominee’s health are taken into consideration during the prioritization process. Nominations from all service branches are accepted, regardless of whether the veteran served in war or peacetime.
Focus on Westborough’s World War II veterans
Recent Quilts of Valor recipients in Westborough include Navy veteran Anthony Viscomi and Army veterans Steve Pratt and Warren McConnell, among others. The men were awarded their quilts by Paul Horrigan and Andy Toorock of the Westborough Veterans’ Advisory Board.
“We have been focusing on World War II veterans residing in Westborough,” said Gallinagh of the Advisory Board’s Quilts of Valor efforts.
That generation of veterans is rapidly passing away, more than 75 years after the Japanese surrender in September of 1945 marked the official end of World War II.
Nationwide, nearly 300 die every day. Only two percent of the total number of veterans from that conflict are still alive, so the time remaining to honor their service is short.
“We will begin to recognize Korean War veterans next,” Gallinagh added, again with regard to the Quilts of Valor program.
The Westborough Veterans’ Advisory Board advocates for every veteran in Westborough and ensures he or she is treated with dignity and respect. It also distributes information about benefits and policies and raises awareness about veterans in the community.
For more information, visit https://www.town.westborough.ma.us/veterans-advisory-board.