Fourteen years after islander Sue Nebeker and a group of island volunteers created 100 quilts at a quilt-a-thon for soldiers wounded in Iraq, Nebeker’s American Hero Quilts is still going strong.
The group’s work is featured in a book released in April, called “Flags Across America,” by Seattle photographer and writer Dale Baskin and Gig Harbor author Karen S. Robbins.
Currently, photos from the book, including some of those related to American Hero Quilts, are on display at the Gig Harbor Civic Center.
The photos of the red, white and blue quilts have plenty of company in the exhibit and book, which includes 300 American flag photos with flag stories from Americans of all walks of life, including the Berlin Candy Bomber, Tuskegee airmen, Doolittle Raiders and prisoners of the Vietnam war.
Among all those stories and the 200 pages of the book, Nebeker tells the story of American Hero Quilts, which has shipped more than 27,200 quilts since 2004.
While most of the quilts go to those who were wounded, others go to family members of those who have died from their injuries or by suicide. Children of those who died fighting are also sent quilts, along with a stuffed animal wrapped inside.
Nebeker does not make all the quilts herself, but has assistance from a number of volunteers on-island and far beyond. Last week, she said, she received two quilts to distribute from a woman whose grandson had been wounded and received a quilt in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Speaking from her Maury Island home, which serves as the base of the operation, Nebeker said that another 100 quilts would soon be on their way to Afghanistan to cover those who are wounded and awaiting transport elsewhere. It is winter in Afghanistan, she said, and in this time of year, she is asked to continue sending the shipments every month or five weeks.
“I thought I would be done by now, but I am kind of shocked that it is still going on,” she said, responding to the question of how long she will continue the effort. “I guess the answer is as long as I can.”
Nebeker said she is pleased to have been included in the book, among many others who share what patriotism means to them. Staunchly anti-war — which may come as a surprise to some, given her mission of the last many years — she said she thinks hearing a little bit more about patriotism might be helpful.
“I think we have lost some of that. We need to start pulling together. A house divided against itself, cannot stand,” she said, quoting Abraham Lincoln.
The book was published by Schiffer Books and has been holding in the number one spot on Amazon in the new releases, lifestyle/photography category, Robbins said. It is available there and through other bookstores, as well as through Nebeker herself. When she sells copies, the proceeds help fund American Hero Quilts.
People can reach out to her through her website, americanheroquilts.com. She also invites them to come by to see where the project has taken place — in the basement of her home — for 14 years.