Quilt Unveiled to Honor Fallen OEF/OIF Servicewomen

The Fallen Military Women Quilt was unveiled Sept. 17 at the Women’s Memorial.Photo by Donna Parry.

Quilters from Oregon, families and friends of servicewomen who have died in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and special guests gathered at the Women’s Memorial Sept. 17 at a ceremony hosted by Foundation President Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught to unveil the “Fallen Military Women Quilt.” The quilt was crafted by women from the Moro, OR, area, 14 of whom traveled to the Women’s Memorial to unveil their tribute. The 6’3”-by-8’5” hand-sewn quilt features a stars-and-stripes motif that displays the names of the fallen within the stripes. The quilters also sewed patriotic and memorial sayings into star-studded squares.

The quilt was the idea of retired Army SSG Donna J. Birtwistle. SSG Birtwistle told the ceremony crowd that she got the idea this spring at a veterans group meeting. “Women serve in harm’s way more than ever and … they are just as tough and just as hardy as the men are,” she said. “We made the quilt to honor these women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Army BG Loree K. Sutton and the family of Army SPC Tocarra R. Green, found SPC Green’s name on the Fallen Military Women Quilt Sept. 17. Photo by Donna Parry..

Retired Army SSG Donna Birtwistle explained
how she got the idea for a quilt to honor fallen
American servicewomen. Photo by Donna Parry

As plans for the quilt began, its mission hit closer to home than the quilters imagined when the first woman from Oregon, Army CPL Jessica A. Ellis, was killed May 11 in Iraq. Her death further rallied the quilters and the community around their project with businesses and townspeople donating supplies, volunteering to cut fabric, and eventually helping fund travel costs for 14 quilters to attend the unveiling. In addition to Birtwistle, women involved in the quilting project who attended the unveiling included: Mary Anne Macnab, Mary Lou Massie, Marlene Wallace, Sharon Simantel, Mavis Olsen, Sheila Weber, Marylea Sanders, Elizabeth Hazel, Camille Hurd, Linda Simkus, Penny Eakin, and Julie Cordahl.

Following the unveiling, BG Sutton and the family of Army SPC Toccara R. Green, found SPC Green’s name on the quilt. The 23-year-old died when an improvised explosive device detonated near her unit Aug. 14, 2005. Also in attendance was the mother of Marine CPL Jessica Parcell who was killed Feb. 7, 2007, while supporting combat operations with the Lioness Team in Iraq.

The quilters’ work is a reminder, BG Sutton added, to remember and honor those who serve and those who make the ultimate sacrifice. “Let us renew our dedication to making their sacrifices count,” she said. “We shall always remember.”

The quilt will be exhibited at the Women’s Memorial through Dec. 31, 2009, before starting a nationwide tour to raise awareness of the service and sacrifice of America’s fallen servicewomen.

The quilt display adds to the honor paid fallen servicewomen at the Memorial. All servicewomen who have died in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom are immediately registered at the Memorial, thanks to the efforts of long-time Memorial supporter Alice Booher, the Women Overseas Service League and other individual sponsors. These registrations are displayed in the Memorial’s Hall of Honor.

You may also view a list of the 113 servicewomen who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the online“Women in the Global War on Terror In-Memoriam Honor Roll” on the Women’s Memorial Web site.

The 14 women who traveled from Moro, OR. to unveil the Fallen Military Women Quilt posed in front of the quilt they helped create with unveiling host Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, Memorial Foundation President (kneeling right); unveiling keynote speaker BG Loree K. Sutton (kneeling left) and the family of one of the fallen servicewomen SPC Tocarra R. Green (center). Photo by Donna Parry.

(October 2008)