Quilts a comfort to those seeking reassurance

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Honour bound: Tom Jones wrapped in his Quilt of Valour. Picture: Gary Sissons

A TOUCHING gesture to show returned service men and women that their efforts and sacrifices were not made in vain has made a Chelsea man proud and grateful.

Tom Jones, 95, was recently presented with a Quilt of Valour at Longbeach RSL by club president Michael Weissefeld and Wyn Roper, who is president of Quilters of Valour Australia.

The patchwork quilt was made by Bev Young, of Mornington Peninsula Patchworkers, who has made many quilts for the organisation which started in 2010 to honour “those affected by their service to Australia”.

So far, more than 1000 quilts have been presented to ex-service personnel, each unique quilt taking many hours to craft by quilters from all over Australia. The message is that the quilts “wrap the wounded in love, care and healing”.

Other quilts, called Dignity quilts, are draped over the bodies of the deceased to offer respect and dignity as they leave their homes.

Along with the quilts come certificates showing their authenticity and a letter of gratitude from the organisation.

Many returned soldiers – especially those who served in Vietnam and the Middle East – suffer trauma and despair as a result of their treatment or tortuous memories. Some feel responsible for the deaths of colleagues in battle, trapped in guilt that they survived. Many are still seeking to escape the trauma years later.

These people especially value the comfort and solace of the quilts. Mr Jones – a Carrum and Chelsea resident for 47 years – is one. The former British Army soldier was captured by the Japanese in Java in 1940 and spent four years as a prisoner-of-war in Japan.

Like so many veterans after the combat he made a new life for himself: he settled in Australia, married and raised a family, and “got on with it” despite varying degrees of unease and disquiet over his past service.

A chance meeting with Quilters of Valour member Dorothy Meadows at the Chelsea shops helped him turn a corner when she realised he needed support while caring for daughter Linda and granddaughter Tracey Lee.

Just knowing that people appreciate and respect his former life is comforting. “I’ve had a few kicks in the bum – nothing like this,” he said.

“It really means a lot to me.”

Tracey Lee told the gathering at the quilt presentation: “I can’t thank you all enough. Tom is my grandad and he is very honoured and thrilled: you all made his day.”

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 12 July 2017

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