Friday, March 31, 2017

Lynette's DOD Americana All Finished! :D

**I'm copy/pasting the post I made for this from my personal blog.**  

This is a huge finish for us, so advance warning for lots of pics and discussion!

My husband, Scott, was an active duty Air Force physician for 26 years. He was in ROTC for college until being commissioned an officer in May of 1990, and retired from that status on July 1, 2016. (So actually, he's been in the Air Force for 29 years.) He finished at the rank of Lt. Colonel after studiously avoiding being designated full-bird colonel for several years (as a doctor, that shunts you into a primarily administrative role and detrimentally impacts your skill set and eligibility for the kind of work he wanted to be able to do when he eventually entered the civilian work force). 

We've been married for one year more than that on each side of the time, so we've been through the whole Air Force journey together. Being in the Air Force completely defined our lives as individuals and a family, and profoundly affected each one of our personalities (we have three daughters). You can't deal with multiple separations, some quite lengthy and in highly dangerous situations, family moves, shifting pools of friends, and an inability to rely on stable future dates for planning vacations, reunions, large financial decisions, etc., without it shaping the person you are and your basic response mechanisms and coping strategies. I mean, you can't even go out of town for a normal weekend when you're not scheduled to work without getting leave approved and charging it from your vacation time. Being in the military is hard on your kids, who grow up learning to adapt, but also dealing with more anxiety issues than civilian kids, as they frequently deal with a missing parent that they worry about and a stressed single-parent at home for periods ranging from two weeks to over a year at a time. It also affects everyone's ability to relate to other people, and them to you. I actually had a person say to me across the conference table in a meeting of about 15 people, "Oh, you're military. I don't want to be friends with you, because you're just going to move." Mine wasn't the only jaw that dropped, but that is not the only time I've experienced such idiocy. The ironic thing is that we lived in that house, around the corner from that person, for an unusually long period of time - 14 years. On the other hand, we've had complete opposite reactions from people, such as the young-20s professional (surely struggling financially), who surprise-paid our very large sushi bill when we went out one day as a family with our German foreign-exchange student while Scott was in uniform.

1990, a new Lieutenant and his wife living in the D.C. area.

2015, a Lieutenant Colonel and his wife
facing the final months of his active duty career.

All that to say: Being in the military is HARD, so this quilt is a big deal to all of us.

As Scott's retirement approached, I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do for a quilt to celebrate that. Then, Deana posted her DOD Americana Block of the Month for the second half of 2015. 

Deana's DOD Americana
I loved the way she made the center panels connote the flag, and how the star panel felt rather Air-Forcy, like the Thunderbirds shooting off into one of their spectacular formations.

My star field on Scott's quilt

I also saw that I could personalize some of the panels to fit the occasion.

The design changes I made include a complete surround of the spinner stars for the outer borders, our own pictorial panel instead of the cute Betsy Ross flag stitchers row, dropping off the last row, and using the more acute star panel that was on Deana's original quilt instead of the more user-friendly version she made for the BOM group (the old, harder, one looked more jettish to me). 

I wanted to use fabrics from Scott's old uniforms in some places. Starting at the top, the background for the hearts and flags came from the woodland BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms) that were used in his earlier days. 

The thickness of the material drove me to rework the construction of the hearts into a piecing/applique approach with an added heart border, as the BDU layers were unmanageable for Deana's easier way.

The first flag stripe panel is just as Deana designed.

I did personalize the embroidered lyrics, changing out "America the Beautiful" for Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."  In 2001, we lived near Eglin Air Force Base, and that year the USO planned a really neat Veteran's Day Carnival for the area military folks (drawing from 3 different regional bases and all the retirees in the area). 

They had contracted with Lee Greenwood to perform as the star months ahead of time, and then disaster hit our country on 9-11. You can imagine how emotional this song was for such an audience in those early weeks after that attack on the U.S. Scott was away on a deployment at the time, so he didn't get to experience that amazing performance. But this song is special even without that experience, as it assures active duty people they are not fighting alone - people they will never meet support them emotionally, and it's as powerful to hear it as the random "Thank you for your service" that you get from strangers every once in a while. I still can't hear this song without bawling like a baby.

The Betsy Ross row became a row of pictures that I worked up to represent Scott's longest major deployments.

There were many, many shorter deployments and TDYs that are not represented here. His avatar in each area is wearing fabric from the uniform of that particular time. It's fun to see the changes in fabrics and boot colors across the decades (although there was a very short period of time when they wore bluish digitized ABU-type uniforms that isn't represented on this quilt.)

Croatia was Scott's first major deployment, in 1998, and it 
was a UN assignment. He enjoyed the times he got to train with other nationalities, such as the Germans who had fun exchanging weapons with each other to try out the different feel, and the rappelling they did there. Woodland BDUs for this one.

The next one on this panel is for a year long unaccompanied tour in South Korea, 2001. He did not like that one. No offense is meant to South Korea, which he never got to enjoy. They couldn't leave base hardly ever at all, and had to work in full chemical protective gear almost as often as in normal uniforms because of continuous threats of attack from North Korea (the chem gear is awful, awful, AWFUL to endure). Again, woodland BDUs.

The uniforms changed between those deployments and his first major Afghanistan arena deployment was in Oman, 2003, so he wore the DCUs for that one (Desert Camoflage Uniforms). Chem gear came into play again, but not as often as in Korea.They lived and worked in sand-colored air-conditioned modular tents, and the M.A.S.H.-looking medical tents were set up inside a gigantic warehouse. They did regular humanitarian work trips and allowed civilians to be treated in their facilities at times, like when they helped a local woman delivery her baby in a tricky situation.

Uniforms had changed again for his second major deployment in that arena in 2009, to an Army base somewhat near Kabul in Afghanistan. (It was named Camp Alamo - now tell me who thought THAT was a good, comforting, name to give to a base in a conflict area??) At this point in time, they wore the digitized ABUs (Airman Battle Uniforms) with tan boots. My favorite picture of all his deployments comes from this time frame, and I tried to represent the rock formation he was climbing. 

I also put in an AMRAM for him to remember, as he was tickled that his design was approved and he got to paint it on the ambulance. He was more tickled when he got to drive it, and gets all excited when he talks about the weapons they fired there. They didn't get to go off base much, as any excursion - be it a humanitarian mission, a recreational outing, or an administrative issue in Kabul like getting your license renewed - required advanced planning by Intel and an escort by a sniper/special ops unit. I'm sure I'm a much happier person not knowing the majority of what they experienced there. 

The center image with the larger avatar represents Scott's normal state of work at his home base offices. That Scott is dressed in the ABUs (Airman Battle Uniforms) with green boots that were in use at the time of his retirement, except that the doctor coat wasn't usually worn. In Scott's field, it was extremely rare for him to work in the Air Force blues (you know, the dark blue polyester pants and light blue shirts), and he probably wore them no more than two hundred times over the 26 years. He didn't like them. We didn't save any of them, and they're not on the quilt. :)  The flight uniform he wore during his time with the special ops unit is not represented on the quilt, either, but I have a patch that I may put on the back when I give this a label, or if we can find all the other patches, we might make another quilt for those in the future. (I printed tiny-size copies of typical medical posters onto quilting fabric sheets for this area.)

Letting our German exchange student see what an Air Force hospital
is like. Can't be too serious all the time!  :)

The pastoral panel below the deployments panel is largely just like Deana's design. I did trade out a cemetery at the church for a hillside with horses, since one of the highlights of our time near Eglin was having some horses for a few years on someone's property that we managed in exchange for reduced fees. 

The bottom panel is just as Deana designed, with fussy-cut pieces from the Air Force fabric that I used as the backing. Each star focuses on a different Air Force plane. Scott loves the different aircraft that have been used, and has all kinds of information about them tucked in his head. He once tongue-in-cheek nominated the "Peashooter" as the mascot for his team at one clinic. Your imagination can fill in the connection, I'm sure. ;D

Image result for air force peashooter

For the quilting, I treated the whole central flag portion as one unit.

All the fused applique images got outline quilting, and pieced images got stitch-in-ditch work with attention to details like windows, etc. For fill work, though, I made wavy lines that traversed all the rows and panels as if it were a flag on a pole in a breeze, breaking and starting again at every point where the line encountered an image or color change at row edges. I used light-weight cotton threads everywhere for both of these stages, so there was a LOT of color change involved that took several days of tail tying and tucking. Many movies got me through that task!

I'm at a loss as to why these pictures are blurry and have poor contrast -
on the phone screen and on this screen in Lightroom, they are marvelous.
I can only assume it's a compressing effect from the blog upload platform.
The hearts and flags were easy to quilt, with meandering on the BDU background, and the starbursts in the fireworks row got fun metallic silver thread - just a simple SID treatment with rays reaching out between the points to tame the background.

I made stencils for stars and feather units to use on the red and blue outer borders. I had a hard time deciding whether to use contrasting thread to let those pop, or matching thread for them since there's so much going on in this quilt. I still flip-flop between being glad I chose matching thread and wishing I'd used something that shows more obviously. 1/4" parallel lines in the spinning star backgrounds.

I was at a loss for what to use to fill in the last bit of gap between the stencils and the central area, and the background between the hearts and the flag area. I didn't want more meandering or feathers, or McTavishing. I ending up picking rope work, which is far more Navy and Marines than Air Force, but, well, there you have it. It looks good, anyway, and let me resolve the different widths of those areas.

Last of all, the binding was done with the faux-piped approach, using more of the fabric harvested from his woodland BDUs as the flange portion. LOVE how that turned out!

This is a lot of journaling for a finish, but as you can see it's not a normal quilt. We had a nice time taking it for a photo op at the Air Force Academy (his last duty station, and the area we've settled in). 

You can't beat the distinctive architecture of the Cadet Chapel for a backdrop, and the nearby plaza full of aircraft sculptures is ideal. After several stand-up shots, I asked if we'd get in trouble if we draped the quilt on one of them, and now that he's full-on retired instead of active duty, Scott impishly retorted, "What are they going to do if we're not?" and immediately took it to the P-38 sculpture. 

Looks good there, doesn't it?  Nobody complained.  :)  

Shows off the back equally well:

This is a big quilt, something like 90 x 97 after quilting and washing.

The wind and sun were a bit difficult to work with that day,

but it made the stained glass inserts look amazing on the Cadet Chapel,


and the shadow play of the new Polaris building was spectacular in its watery quality:

I think that's all my pictures for now. I'll add one of the label when I finish it. (Waiting for a second label need to print before using an expensive fabric printing sheet.) Incidentally, this is my 3rd accomplishment for the 17 in 2017 goal list.

Thank you to all the people who have stood by us through the years as friends, who have extended thanks and random acts of kindness such as buying Scott's meals at airport while en route for TDYs and deployments, who have understood when it was impossible for us to facilitate plan-making for desired events and vacations. I'm grateful for the blessings that our time as an active duty family brought us, but also breathing a lot easier now that our service is over and we can learn to be able to live a little differently. Scott sure enjoys wearing civilian clothes to work for the first time in his life, and was happy I didn't want him to get into uniform for his quilt's photo op. heh!

Enjoy your security and think about the tremendous impact on their lives and personal development that military families deal with in order for most families to live peacefully the way they want to. They have to cope with situations and feelings and child difficulties that civilians cannot begin to imagine, let alone understand. They have fears that only law enforcement and firefighter families comprehend. And for heaven's sake, if you get a military family member in a group you're a part of - be friends with her or him, even though they'll likely move soonish! Military folks are great sources of support and ideas for adapting to challenges, and especially with modern technology, friendship doesn't painfully end when they have to move. You won't regret your investment in that relationship.

Love you all!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the terrific documentation on your quilt. The outcome is beautiful and a wonderful tribute to your husband's military career. Thanks to him for his service and to your family for yours.

Terry said...

Wow! what an amazing quilt to document your husband's military career. I thank him and you for your service to our country. What a special couple you two are!

Moira said...

An amazing quilt for a very special man. My thanks to your husband for his service and to you and your family for all that you've done over the years as well.

Phyllis said...

Wow, I am speechless. Can anything beat that? I don't think so. I have only been able to sew most of my quilt and will finish in two years. Right now I am in Africa for another 13 months and I am so proud to be an American.

Ruth said...

Your quilt is amazing and will be a wonderful treasure commemorating his service in the Air Force. Your quilting is beautifully done and all the personal touches make it very special. My son is also a Lt. Col. in the Air Force and will be retiring in 2-3 years. Who knows, maybe they crossed paths somewhere!

Jocelyn said...

This is an amazing and beautiful quilt!

Snowcatcher said...

What a beautiful story, and the quilt and background are just perfect to represent a family's military career. What a treasure!

Meloney said...

This is an amazing quilt and an amazing story of an AF career. I retired 13 years ago as Lt Col from the Air Force. I was in satellites mostly. I wonder what I could come up with. You are making my mind work overtime. Thank you.

Vivian said...

I love RWB quilts and this one is all the more special for how and for who you personalized it! You put an incredible amount of thought and work into this. What a great tribute to your husband's and your family's service to our country which I thank you both for!

Deonn @ Quiltscapes said...

That is an astounding quilt - and an amazing career in the Air Force. What a treasure that will be to your family.

Miaismine said...

We are also retired Air Force and every word your wrote is true! Your quilt is a loving testimony to the service of not only your husband's service, but also that of your family. Much thought and love went into your quilt of love! I thoroughly enjoyed reading and viewing your husband's journey! How I remember those blown up gloves comforting my kiddos and myself for that matter! Thank you for your service to our country. Hugs to you all!

kiwikid said...

What a beautiful quilt, so much personal content, it will be a fantastic treasure for your family. Love how you have incorporated camo fabric into the blocks. Your quilting is beautiful too. Thank you to your husband, you and your family for your service, living a wonderful life here in Australia I am very aware that the military of many countries has given us a safe place to live. (And still does) That person who didn't want to friend you has rocks in her head, she really missed out!!!

CTNBEE said...

This is amazing! It looks great. The quilt looks great. I am glad that people share their experiences with us

Rhonda said...

What an awesome life story. I salute your hubby's service and you & your daughters struggles and triumphs over the years. The quilt is beautiful and I loved seeing the close-ups. Great job!!!

DedicatedHosting4u said...

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Janine @ Rainbow Hare said...

Your quilt is incredible. Quite apart from looking fantastic, it is an heirloom, a fascinating and detailed historic record and a wonderful tribute to all of you. Here (UK) the services really don't get the support, recognition and appreciation for everything the do to keep us safe and we rarely hear of the commitments and sacrifices their families. I thank you for sharing your story and I wish you a very happy next stage in your lives :)