Mary B. Walter became an official volunteer at the Billing (MT) Vet Center a day after she formally retired as the Vet Center’s office manager. Walter is a Veteran herself, married to a Vietnam Veteran, and she’s made supporting Veterans her life’s work. As she became involved with her local Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOVF), she quickly understood why creating quilts for Veterans, especially Vietnam Veterans, was an important part of welcoming them home.
“I remember coming back from Iraq in 2005 and attending our unit’s ‘Welcome Home’ ceremony,” Walter said. “As the event began, Eric Kettenring, currently the Helena (MT) Vet Center Director, asked all the Vietnam Veterans to stand. He made a point of acknowledging them first and officially welcoming them home.”
Walter described the effect it had on her. “It took me two years before I could talk about that moment without starting to cry,” she said.
For Walter, the Quilts of Valor ceremony represents a warm hug for Veterans, which is why each quilt is wrapped around the shoulders of the Veteran. The quilts are made locally, and Veterans are nominated by their peers or members of the community to receive them. “The quilts are given to Veterans who have been touched by combat,” she said. “Fortunately, we have a lot of dedicated quilters and Veterans are able to select their own quilt.”
On July 28th, 2020, Walter and the Billings Vet Center team hosted the Quilts of Valor Foundation to honor nine Vietnam Veterans for their service. Each Veteran was called forward and their chosen quilt was wrapped around their shoulders. For Walter, each Veteran was now ‘wrapped in love’ by their community welcoming them home.
The Readjustment Counseling Service worked with Vet Centers for this story.