Quilts of Valor: Service Connects Former Navy Chief with Wounded Warriors

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Kay Miller wrapped the beautifully-crafted quilt around Lt. West, a Purple Heart recipient, at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. Struck by an improvised explosive device October 9 while in Afghanistan, 22-year-old Lt. Cameron West recently lost his right leg, sight in his right eye and use of his right hand. Draped in his quilt of valor, Lt. West’s hope is rejuvenated. He looked at Kay as she wiped the tears from his eyes and told her that this means more to him than anyone will ever know. As a former Warfighter herself and now an employee at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Kay found support through the Crane Learning and Employment Center (CLEC) to advance her education and civilian career. She currently serves as an office manager while earning her bachelor’s degree in business management. With her personal and professional roots grounded in the military, her daily mission emphasizes her deep support for military men and women.

The Foundation's mission struck me as a unique way to give back in support of the military

Kay Miller wrapped the beautifully-crafted quilt around Lt. West, a Purple Heart recipient, at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. Struck by an improvised explosive device October 9 while in Afghanistan, 22-year-old Lt. Cameron West recently lost his right leg, sight in his right eye and use of his right hand. Draped in his quilt of valor, Lt. West’s hope is rejuvenated. He looked at Kay as she wiped the tears from his eyes and told her that this means more to him than anyone will ever know.

As a former Warfighter herself and now an employee at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Kay found support through the Crane Learning and Employment Center (CLEC) to advance her education and civilian career. She currently serves as an office manager while earning her bachelor’s degree in business management. With her personal and professional roots grounded in the military, her daily mission emphasizes her deep support for military men and women.

Kay understands the sacrifices essential to serving our country. As a retired Navy Chief, she spent 20 years in the military. Her husband, also retired from the Navy, has missed many important events in their lives because of his service and deployments. As a mother, she is proud of her two sons who currently serve in the Navy and fight for our freedom.

She also knows some of her fellow servicemen and women have given even greater sacrifices. Kay wants to show them that their sacrifice has not gone unrecognized.

When Kay was assigned by her professor to select a community service project, she immediately knew she wanted to assist those in the military. When a friend informed her of the Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOVF), Kay found it to be the perfect way for her to honor injured soldiers. The Foundation’s mission is to cover all those service members and veterans touched by war with quilts. These quilts of valor are awarded to Warfighters injured in the war on terror, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Foundation’s mission struck me as a unique way to give back in support of the military,” said Miller. “I thought of a soldier wrapped in a quilt of support that is handmade from members around the United States to show support of their sacrifice in service of their country. It could be a son, daughter, brother, father, sister or a mother of any one of us.”

While sewing her first quilt, themed in patriotic colors, Kay became even more personally vested in the Foundation than she had originally anticipated. Wanting to discover how she could involve herself more directly with the organization, she contacted QOVF founder Catherine Roberts. Kay was surprised to hear back from the local QOVF representative, Susie Redmond, who invited her to a Wounded Warriors luncheon at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland Oct. 29.

At the luncheon, Kay had the unique opportunity to meet the Wounded Warriors and listen to their personal stories. She shared details with them of her own transition journey from Navy Warfighter to workforce civilian and how she used CLEC, a program that provides education and on-the-job training to assist veterans with disabilities to re-enter the workforce, as a valuable resource and avenue. Alongside NSWC Crane Director of Veterans Programs Larry McRoberts, Kay spoke about how CLEC changed her life — and how it can help other Wounded Warriors re-integrate into society following their military careers.

“I told them that just because you’re wounded, it doesn’t mean your career is over,” said Kay. “Hearing about CLEC instilled a sense of optimism that they’re still greatly valued in the workforce even with their injuries or disabilities.”

Following the luncheon, Kay was given the rare opportunity to present her quilt of valor, along with six other quilts contributed by a local Indiana quilting guild, to Wounded Warriors at the medical center. That’s when she met Lt. West, as well as three other courageous young men who gave tremendous sacrifice to fight for freedom. With the quilts Kay provided, a total of seven men wrapped themselves in the support of their country that day, and Kay hopes to offer many more quilts to any Wounded Warrior who may need one in the future.

“Someone is standing the watch tonight, while we sleep, fighting for our freedom,” said Miller. “These men and women have sacrificed everything — their time, their bodies. Nothing compares to the sacrifices they have been paid for us.”

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Pam Ingram
NSWC Crane
(812) 854-3239
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