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Combat quilting

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing

To say that Lynn Koger loves quilting may be a bit of an understatement. Even a recent deployment to the Middle East with her National Guard unit didn’t stop the Fort Dodge, Iowa resident from continuing to pour her heart and soul into her craft.

While on a six month deployment with the Iowa Air National Guard, Koger said she continued piecing together over 30 quilts while she was away.

“Basically I just wanted to keep busy doing what I love doing,” said Koger who despite being activated for military service was determined to continue to quilt.

Master Sgt. Koger works as a training NCO with the 133rd Test Squadron in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She was showing her combat quilts at a recent quilt show along with 50 other quilts that she had pieced together over the past couple of years.  When she got the word last year that she would be deploying with a large group of Airman from her unit, Koger said that she began cutting and packing pieces of material to take along with her.

The 15 year Air Force veteran had been overseas before and said she was fully aware of the way the work schedule ebbs and flows during deployments. Koger had packed a few quilting items in her personal bags, but also arranged to ship additional material and a sewing machine to herself in order to continue piecing quilts together while she was gone.

Koger set up shop in her small living quarters and whenever she had down time she would sew. With a very understanding roommate, she said she would complete four or five tops, box them and ship them back to Iowa. Back home members of her quilt guild were anxiously awaiting each shipment.

“It was kind of a care package in reverse. I figured I could send it to my house, but then nobody would get to see them,” Koger explained.

The members of her guild gleefully opened the boxes as they arrived every few weeks and gladly finish the quilts by adding batting and backs.

“We couldn’t sneak, we had to wait, we wouldn’t open them until we were all together on sew day,” said Carol Heatherington a resident of Otho, Iowa.

All the work of the past few years culminated at the guilds biannual quilt show in October where Koger displayed her extensive collection. Following the show she said her plans are to give most of the quilts away as gifts.

“I’ll be giving them away during Thanksgiving, so whoever shows up for my family Thanksgiving is going to get a quilt,” Koger said laughingly.

In an ironic twist, some of the quilts Koger plans to give away, including ones she pieced together while in Iraq, will be donated to the Quilts of Valor foundation. Quilts of valor is a nationwide organization that gives quilts to service members and veterans who have been touched by war.

Koger says the Quilts of Valor program is fairly simple both for the giver and the receiver. She says most of the work - both making quilts and determining the best candidates to receive a quilt – are done at the local level. For now she says she plans on continuing to make quilts and continuing to give most of them away just for the love of it.