By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN - Alice Michalsky was honored to receive a quilt recently, made just for her granddaughter, Jamie Michalsky, who died while serving in the Army Reserves in 2004.
The quilt was made as part of the Home of the Brave Quilt Project to honor the nation’s soldiers who have died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The project was founded by Don Beld in 2005, a quilt maker and historian from Los Angeles, CA, with many states having formed their own chapters.
The idea stemmed from women of the Civil War honoring the brave soldiers who fought on both sides as a request by the US Sanitary Commission.
In 1861, a call went out for the donation of quilts and coverlets for use by soldiers. The soldiers would carry these as part of their bed rolls. Some soldiers were even buried with their quilt, according to an article by Beld in the 2002 issue of the American Quilter.
“Some of the quilts were album quilts with messages of support, faith, and love stitched in their blocks,” the article wrote.
In one block, the quilter wrote: “My son is in the Army. Whoever is made warm by this quilt, which I have worked on for six days and most of six nights, let him remember his mother’s love.”
The quilts were also used in military hospitals on the cots of wounded soldiers.
Only six of 250,000 quilts donated by the Women’s Auxiliary are known of today. One of these quilts, the only one available for viewing by the public, is at the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands, CA.
The quilt pattern for the Home of the Brave Quilt Project is a replica of it.
Michalsky now has her own commemorative quilt that hangs on the hallway to her dining room.
“It’s comforting to go by it and touch it and know it was made just for Jamie,” Michalsky said.
Each square has the name of the person who stitched it. Jamie’s quilt has the names of quilters in the Maple Lake area.
“It just makes a closer bond to think of her as you’re walking by,” she added.
This is the 81st quilt given in Minnesota, according to Jean Loken, state coordinator for the quilt project.
“The families are so happy to receive them . . . it’s very heartwarming,” Loken said.
Michalsky was a Russian interpreter with WorldWide Language Resources Inc., in neighboring Uzbekistan, where it was relatively peaceful at the time.
There were nine suicide bombings in Afghanistan in the preceding six months, according to the story about Michalsky’s death in the Oct. 27, 2004 Enterprise-Dispatch.
That day, Michalsky had gone to Kabul to see a doctor about her hand, which had been broken in a car accident earlier.
Michalsky happened to be standing by a United Nations peacekeeping truck that was targeted by the bomber. Seven other people were killed in the explosion.
To learn more about the Home of the Brave Quilt Project, to get involved, or request a quilt for a fallen hero, visit www.homeofthebravemn.org.