East Alabama vets receive quilts of valor in West Point

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023

WEST POINT — Two East Alabama veterans who served in combat war zones were honored with quilt presentations Saturday morning at sewingmachine.com in downtown West Point. The Georgia-Alabama State Line chapter of the Quilts of Valor hosted the program.

The honorees included Marine veterans Thomas Sanford and Shane Bailey, who served in the U.S. Army.

Sanford is originally from Montgomery, Alabama, and lives in Alexander City today. He and his wife, Lois, have three children and three grandchildren.

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Sanford was in the Marine Corps from 1963 to 1985. He was in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966 and again in 1972. He was stationed at Chu Lai, Hue and Phu Bai. He received three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and many other commendations during his service.

“When people hear of this, they often tell me I must have been a good soldier,” he said. “I tell them ‘No. I wasn’t, and I was just lucky. The ones who were the best soldiers didn’t return home. I was privileged to have served with many of them.”

Bailey grew up in Huguley and graduated from Valley High in 1998. He and his wife Jenna have three children. They live in Valley, and the children attend Valley schools.

Bailey took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007. He was stationed in Baghdad, Diyala, and Taji during his stay in Iraq. He was with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Second Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. He received a Bronze Star, an Army Commendation Medal, and an Army Commendation Medal with Valor.

Sewingmachine.com owner Steve Tramell thanked the local chapter for what they do.

The program began with a medley of military songs, “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” for the Army, “Anchors Aweigh” for the Navy, “Semper Veritas” for the Coast Guard, “Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder” for the Air Force and “The Marine Corps Hymn” for the U.S. Marines.

Alexander read a narrative about the National Quilts of Valor organization. It was founded by Catherine Roberts in 2003. Her son was serving in harm’s way at the time, being involved in the invasion of Iraq. She constantly worried for his safety and one night had a dream of him being haunted by his war demons and then finding comfort in wrapping himself in a quilt. That inspired her to form a quilting group of women making quilts and giving them to soldiers serving in combat zones.

It took several years for Roberts and her small group to make 100 quilts, but as other women discovered what they were doing, more quilting chapters were formed. They went from coast to coast. The number of quilt presentations passed the 100,000 mark in 2014. Approximately 350,000 quilts have been presented to veterans and active duty personnel since 2003.

“Each quilt presentation carries with it a three-part message,” Alexander said. “First, we are honoring you for your service and your willingness to leave all you hold dear and stand in harm’s way in a time for crisis for all of us. Second, we know that freedom is never free. Our quilts are meant to say thank you for your many sacrifices. For those of us who have never seen combat or been in a war zone, such experiences are beyond our capacity to comprehend. Finally, these quilts offer you comfort. Throughout history, when young men left home to fight in a war, many of them took a quilt made by a family member that they called a comfort quilt. It may have been all these young men had to remind them of the warmth memories of home can bring. We want you to use this quilt. It is not meant to be hung on the wall or put in a display case.”

The local chapter has made a special effort to award quilts to veterans of World War II and Vietnam. Those Americans who came of age during WWII were often called “the Greatest Generation.” Precious few veterans of that war are still living. The Vietnam War was a divisive period for our country, and many Americans who served in it were often disrespected on their return home. 

 

TWO VETERANS HONORED — Two veterans of U.S. military service were honored with Quilts of Valor presentations Saturday morning at sewingmachine.com in downtown West Point. At left is U.S. Marine Corps veteran Thomas Sanford and at right, U.S. Army veteran Shane Bailey. Both served in combat zones, Sanford in Vietnam and Bailey in Iraq.