Medical center quilt salutes women veterans

Seven employees of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Junction made this quilt titled “Blocks Across Battle Lines” to honor women veterans and raise breast cancer awareness among their ranks. It is displayed in the Women Veterans Program offices. Quilters, from left, are Kathy Goe, program coordinator, Tamara Carlisle, Shirley Jackson, Marilee Sexton and Pam Matthews. Lori Weaver and Elaine Taylor are not shown.

In what could be called a “band of sisters” at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Junction, seven employees made it their mission to stitch together a quilt to honor women who have served in the armed forces and to promote breast cancer awareness among those ranks.

They presented their finished work, titled “Blocks Across Battle Lines,” this past week to the Women Veterans Program at the medical center. It measures 41 inches by 41 inches and is displayed on a wall in the department’s offices.

According to Veterans Affairs, women are the fastest-growing group in the military. Eleven percent of veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom are female.

The VA is making changes to attract these women to available health care.

Here in Grand Junction, for example, the VA Medical Center hired a female nurse practitioner with 25 years of experience in women’s care.

The combination of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and Veterans Day this month inspired the group of seven women to collaborate on their special quilt.

The majority of these contributors — though not veterans themselves — have fathers, brothers and husbands who served their country, says Shirley Jackson, a registered nurse and clinical evaluator at the VA Medical Center.

Lori Weaver’s father served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, her husband is a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, and her son now is stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Ga.

The center of the quilt, referred to as the “pink warrior” block, was machine appliqued by Marilee Sexton. Elaine Taylor formed a ribbon in the shape of the breast cancer symbol, using pink and blue material from her granddaughter’s crib collection. (That granddaughter was born earlier this month.)

Other features include crazy quilting, hand applique and paper piecing.

Kathy Goe, coordinator of the Women Veterans Program, hand-appliqued a pink ribbon for the quilt’s label.

Jackson collected the blocks from the others, assembled them and stitched them together in a cohesive unit, filling in with smaller patches and strips where needed.

Lorraine Preuss of Grand Junction then was asked to do the final machine quilting, and she donated her talent for that task, Jackson says.

Preventive care, including cancer screening, is offered by the women’s program. Weight management, smoking cessation, immunizations and mental health also fall under that umbrella.

Of course, treatment for acute and chronic illnesses is offered, along with contraception counseling and management of menopause.

Women who are eligible for these services can call the Grand Junction VA at 263-2850.

The program motto is: You Serve, You Deserve.

Our veterans — women and men — deserve our sincere thanks for their unselfish commitment.

And the women mentioned above, who tend to veterans’ health care needs, also have earned a hurrah for their dedication. Way to go, gals.

E-mail Sherida.Warner


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