By Lisa Capobianco
“Pride,” “freedom,” and “courage” are just several of over a dozen words inscribed on a quilt that Peter W. Longo of Southington received in honor of serving his country.
From 1951 to 1954, Longo served in the 82ndAirborne Division, so his wife, Dolores— along with John DeMello, a family friend who serves as a member of American Legion Post #72— wanted to honor the Korean War-era veteran with the “Quilt of Valor.”
Both DeMello and Dolores Longo sent in a request to the Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOVF), a national grassroots community service effort that creates quilts for wartime veterans to show them their appreciation.
“It was absolutely breathtaking,” said Dolores who met her husband when he was stationed in South Carolina. “It is just something he never expected and I never expected.”
DeMello and local volunteers of the Quilts of Valor Foundation honored Longo at his home, surrounded by family and friends. For Longo, the intimate celebration served as one he would never forget, as volunteers of QOVF also honored his son, grandson and friend—all military veterans too.
“It was certainly a day to remember and to behold,” said Dolores, adding that to see the look of surprise on the faces of both her son and grandson would serve as a long-lasting memory. “There was not a dry eye in the house.”
“I know these people,” added DeMello, who has known the Longo family for about 25 years. “They deserve it, and there are others that deserve it too.”
Four local veterans received quilts with different patterns—all with their own stories. Jane Dougherty, a volunteer of QOVF, created the pattern for Peter W. Longo based on a book called, “The Giving Pattern” by Jennifer Chiaverini.
Peter L. Longo, his son who is a Vietnam War-era veteran, received a pattern called “Independence Day,” a pattern designed by the Missouri Star Quilt Company, reported Dougherty.
Plainville’s John Potter III, the grandson of Peter Longo Sr., who was deployed to Afghanistan, received a pattern with a “circle” theme that symbolizes events circling back to him as a young individual, explained Dougherty.
Charlie Bass, a friend of the Longo family who is a Korean War-era veteran, received a pattern called “Enigma,” which Dougherty said she has made numerous times.
“One of the joys of quilting for Quilts of Valor is the opportunity to try new patterns,” Dougherty said. “Each quilt has its own special story.”
Both Peter W. Longo and Charlie Bass also received certificates of appreciation in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Korean Armistice from the Department of Defense for their military service.
Bass, a Navy veteran who also served during World War II from 1943 to 1946, said receiving the Quilt of Valor made him feel appreciated for the commitment he made to his country. “It is really quite an honor,” Bass said. “It symbolizes people’s concern for veterans…what they do for our country.”
For Peter L. Longo, being a part of the celebration with his father served as a meaningful event he will always remember.
Growing up, Peter used to watch combat shows and also looked through his father’s 82ndAirborne yearbook—a family keepsake that served as an inspiration for him to also enlist in the same branch. Longo served in the 82nd Airborne Army from 1972 to 1975.
“The care that the people put into [the quilt] was really touching,” said Longo, who also pulled out his own yearbook, reflecting on the different types of training he underwent.
For John Potter III, being honored with a Quilt of Valor with his grandfather and uncle served as a rewarding experience. Deployed in Afghanistan from August 2011 to December 2011, Potter served as a Convoy Commander and Supply Chief for U.S. Marine Corps.
Potter said he has looked up to his grandfather and uncle his entire life, and the quilts they received symbolize unity for him.
“I am proud to have followed in their footsteps and to have received this honor with them,” Potter said. “Volunteers made these quilts as a way to give back to those who gave.”
Established in 2003 by a woman named Catherine Roberts, who hoped to cover veterans touched by war, the Quilts of Valor Foundation has made and presented over 90,000 quilts, according to its website. A Quilt of Valor has a minimum size of 55 by 65 inches. After getting bound, washed, labeled and wrapped in a presentation case, the quilts are distributed in different places—from military hospitals to service units returning home from combat deployments to individual homes.
Dougherty said Feb. 1 marks National Service Day when Quilts of Valor will have sewing gatherings nationwide.
“It is one of the greatest things ever done,” said Dolores Longo of the Quilt of Valor her husband received.
By Lisa Capobianco