Thursday, 9 July 2020

A surprise and a Quilt

Part of the reason Aussie Hero Quilts was started way back in 2012, was a way to give back and say thank you. Sitting here, blessed to be minding one of the admin chairs, reading all the heartfelt messages coming in each day for the thousands of quilts and laundry bags, that have been lovingly designed, crafted, and packed off to our servicemen and women all across the globe, it is safe to say the work Jan-Maree started continues to achieve that.

Sharing from Jan-Maree's Facebook, it is my pleasure to share here, the 
very special surprise, some of you reading along at home were apart of, mastering a beautiful gift for Jan-Maree herself. 
 
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Well it has taken me longer than I wanted to write this post but a short stay in hospital and a few nights of broken sleep have slowed me down so apologies for the delay.

Two weeks ago I was surprised by a knock at the door and there stood Commodore Robert Plath, Deputy Fleet Commander, and his staff officer.

It turns out they were on a secret mission which became apparent when they entered and presented me with a beautiful handmade quilt.

Masterminded by Cath Harvey ably assisted, I am told, by Phillip Henry, Inge Cairns, Tina Close and Sue Niven and others whose details I do not have, the quilt is an absolute work of art and almost too good to use, but rest assured it will be used.

One side features three embroidered photos of my gorgeous fur babies with my gorgeous Charlie front and centre.

The other side features a fabulous quote that perfectly sums up my attitude to life and also a poem written by the wonderful Barham Ferguson, another co-conspirator.

All I can say is a heartfelt thank you for such a treasure. it will accompany me to hospital later in the year when I head off to Westmead for my Stem Cell treatment. From what I understand this will be a few weeks in hospital when I will need to do whatever I can to keep my mental game strong and having this quilt with me with the inspiring words, the photos of my furbabies and the love and encouragement in every stitch, will go a long way to steeling my resolve to come out the other end as strong as possible and ready to tackle the next stage of my recovery.

JM xx

....

Facebook Post from Phillip Henry

Jan-maree Ball....it was a pleasure to be involved in, firstly, keeping it secret from you, and second, to be involved in being part of “returning the favour” for what you do for our service men and women. The organisation you have created has provided quilts and laundry bags to us while we serve on Operations, away from our families for long periods of time. You also provide the quilts to our people undergoing hardship, mentally or medically. Thank you for all that you do, to you and all the team at Aussie Hero Quilts and I hope this quilt, just like the ones you make for us, provides some comfort as you go through the next few months medical battle. Xxx







Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Leading Seaman Don Occaba, Roving reporter from HMAS Canberra......


We have a new roving reporter... 

Leading Seaman Don Occaba is sailing the high seas on HMAS Canberra and has sent us some photos to show us what he has been up to... 




























I hope you have enjoyed seeing what I have been getting up to... I will send some more photos when I can but for now, I have to go and get my dinner..... life at sea is good for my appetitie. 

Cheers

LS Don Occaba

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Grati-Tuesday 07 Jul 2020

Huge week for me with work, end of Financial Year, Board Reports and a Merger on top of all the usual day to day things, the one thing that has made the week easier, are all these beautiful messages and photos from our recipient's! 

To our volunteers, thank you for all your efforts, creativity, time and love in crafting these beauties, and recipients, thank you for your beautiful messages! They are definitely appreciated. 

Have a great week everyone! P.S. is it really July already!
.... 

Good Morning Melissa,

 Thank you so much for your quilt I Love it so much, it reminds me of my little boy. It was a nice surprise to receive it.

 I have been overseas for a few months now it has been one long trip already. Due to COVID-19 we have not been able to have our 2 week holiday half way through to see our family and friends. It has been disappointing a little sad, but we are all sticking together and helping each other get through this tour.

 live in the NT with my Partner who is also in the Army. He is currently taking care of my dog for me while I am away. I get to skype them once or twice a week during my lunch break to check in on them to see how they are going.  My dog can tell it is me straight away he always runs from somewhere in the house to the computer to see me and sit and watch while I talk to my partner.

 Thank you so very much your quilt has brought me happiness in a very very long tour.

 Hope you are and your family are staying safe back home

 Warm regards,

....

G'day Kristie,

The quilt you had produced for me far exceeded my expectations, the level of detail and hard work you had placed into my quilt is a true reflection of your personal dedication to supporting our deployed troops. This amazing quilt will take pride in place alongside the rest of my cherished career memorabilia and come in handy during the long cold months of NSW. Your efforts and tremendously appreciated.

Highest regards.


...

Dear Ellen

 As the lucky recipient of your great laundry bag I thought I'd drop you a quick line to say thank you.  I received it as I have recently completed providing assistance as part of the Covid response.

 I serve as a sapper in the Royal Australian Engineer over here in Western Australia. We had a few tasks including the internal border controls,  which is how I assisted mainly out on the border between Perth and the Midwest region. The squadron has been pretty busy this year as also provided support for the bushfire crisis earlier in the year.

 Luckily everyone had done the right thing and the internal borders have now opened up so we can go back to our day jobs. As I'm a son of 10-pound poms, I'm the first of my family to serve with the Australian army though my grandparents and great grandparents served back in Britain in the first and second world wars. While the Army Reserve is part time it is still good to provide help when needed.

 I've attached a poorly taken selfie with your laundry bag :)

 Let me know if you receive this so I know it made it, as this account has had a few issues .

 All the very best

.....

Dear Jo,

Yesterday I received an amazing surprise! My laundry bag from hero quilts. It is awesome and I am extremely touched that someone took the time to provide such an amazing piece of art. I love it. Such a dedicated person you must be!

I love my family and my country. The time away from them both is all done now while I contribute in other ways.

Trust me the bag is now in use and will remind me of your thoughts!

To your thanks I say it is my pleasure!

But I offer thanks to you and all the sewers that provide such incredible personal support!

....

Dear Pennie

 Words cannot express how grateful we were on receiving such wonderful laundry bags. They brought a tear to my eyes, they are truly spectacular and love them dearly.

It has been an absolute joy to serve the Army for 40 years, I am eternally grateful for the chance I have been given

Once again, I hope you truly appreciate what a wonderful gesture you have done and the pure happiness it has brought to both my husband and myself.

 Keep well and warm

 Warm regards 

.....

Hi Jan-Maree,

 

Just wanted to let you know that we received our laundry bags today! Thank you so much!! They are so wonderful, and the other guys and girls are so happy to receive them. It has put a smile back on their faces after a really long time at sea (ten weeks with no port visits).

Please pass on my thanks to Courtney and Clarissa for their help in making the bags, and sending them to us.

Once again, thank you so much! Your time and effort is greatly appreciated, and I am just in awe of you and your organisation!

 Much love,

.....

Hi Ruth

Just writing to let you know how thrilled I am with the laundry bag you have so lovingly crafted.

It is just fabulous, almost too good to use! I will admit I’m sorely tempted to frame it when I get home later in the year.

I can absolutely say it has brightened my day, and will continue to do so for the rest of my deployment.

It is fiercely hot here currently- most days are in the high 40s, and the nights never get below the low 30s. Everyone is in good spirits despite the challenges of COVID combined with a deployment. It certainly makes for an interesting and unusual experience. I was deployed many years ago when Sept 11 occurred - in both instances I think the domestic environment in Australia I left behind will be completely different to the one I return to. That will no doubt be quite odd.

I hope this finds you in good spirits also..... It has been a different and difficult year at home for all of you too.

Thanks again, I can’t quite put it into words how lovely it is what you and all of the volunteers at Aussie Hero Quilts and Laundry Bags do for those of us deployed away from home.

Warm and heartfelt regards
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Hi Marilyn!  

I was the luckiest member of the troop in a recent delivery of laundry bags to Operation COVID-19 ASSIST because I received the gorgeous sausage dog laundry bag! It really bought me so much joy and I am still smiling writing about it now! 

I hope you found yourself safe, happy and healthy throughout the last couple of months. I’m sure by now you and your family (including all those grandkids) have started to get back to normal, I know I have been lucky enough to head down the NSW Coast to see my young siblings, who are 5 and 3. I hope you have had a chance to travel and visit them all.

 You wrote in your letter that you like to hear about people’s background. So I thought I would let you know a little about me: this is my 7th year in the Army, I joined straight out of school, so I really never knew what I was missing out on 😋 I’m a Combat Engineer Officer, which is not a qualified civil engineer - but we think of ourselves as field engineers, our soldiers are great at repurposing and innovating. They are of course also great at getting up to mischief, but what else do you expect from soldiers! 

I hope you enjoyed reading my reply as much as I enjoyed your splendid gift and letter.  

Thank you so much for MY laundry bag, and my cheeky puppy’s quilt 😂 Thank you for all of the hours you put into letting us all know that we are appreciated - it makes every single challenging day more than worth it! 

Warm regards,

....

Jan-Maree,

 I am currently serving on HMAS Canberra.

 I have been fortunate enough to receive one of your laundry bags whilst on a long programmed Deployment.

 As I was in need of a laundry bag, the timing in receiving it has been of much benefit.

I was in admiration of your efforts on reading the ‘Aussie Hero Quilts’ introduction letter that accompanied the laundry bag and how your service in the RAAF, NAVY and previous treatment of Defence personnel gave you purpose to form this organisation.

There was no other letter contained within the laundry bag; however my design was one of ‘Doctor Who and the Brisbane Lions’.

 If you are aware of the person in your team who took the time to make that bag, please pass on my thanks and let them know it’s currently at sea serving its Nation.

 Thank you again and I hope this email finds you and your family well.

.....

Good Afternoon Lyn,

 I Received the quilt you made yesterday after the long journey it has made through the post from your home all the way to myself here.

I would like to start but saying how beautiful the quilt looks and how grateful I am for the time and effort you have put into this quilt, and thank you very much for the Tim Tams and Mug Rug as well.

I’m glad to hear I lucked out in having a Tigers supporter make the quilt as well, hopefully the team has another good year this year.

 I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a Hero Quilt when I first deployed, but I’m now glad I did get one this quilt is beautiful, the design I chose was not for myself but actually for my daughter, they are all the things she loves so now when I have this quilt I will always think of her so I again thank you for the amazing work you have done, this program you are a part of is truly an amazing one, the quilt not only give me a sense of remember my daughter but also the memories I will have of my time from this deployment later in life, it is also a nice feeling to know people still care and appreciate what we are all doing over here and the sacrifices we have made, so I’m sure this email won’t do any justification of how happy you have made me with this quilt and the gratitude I have for your time and effort.

 I am currently on my first deployment and have served for 8 years in the Royal Australian Signals Corp, The weather over here is summer so a strong contrast to what you are probably experiencing, it’s an average 34 degrees and dry sunny heat, the scenery is actually quite beautiful around the base I actually forget the reason we are over here some days. Although a lot of the small liberties we have normally have been taken away due to the current COVID pandemic, we make do and the small tokens we receive from our families or just people who send over packages or make items for us, keep our morale and spirits running high and always make us appreciate our work and remind us of home it makes the struggle of being away from our loved ones hurt just a little bit less.

 I wish you all the best and again thank you very much for the Quilt.

 Kind Regards,

....

 Good Afternoon Bridget,

 I receive your laundry bag in the mail the other day and I LOVE it. Thank you so much for making that for me. I LOVE it to bits.

 It has been tough here with COVID-19 restrictions. As we watch Australia’s restrictions start lifting ours have been getting tighter. Where we are there are 1000’s of cases a week diagnosed.

 I have been in the Army for 7 years. I come from a strong Military family however I am the first member to be deployed since my grandfather deployed to Vietnam. It’s a new experience for everyone in my family. 

I hope you and your family are staying safe though COVID.

 Kind regards,

....
Hello Clare,

I would like to thank you for your amazing quilt it has brightened up my otherwise dull accommodation I absolutely love it, the work that you and the other volunteers from Aussie hero quilts is very appreciated by everyone here it's quite funny seeing a bunch of ADF members comparing the blankets with all sorts of weird and wonderful designs on them.

the effects of COVID-19 on our deployment have been pretty similar to Australia i imagine closure of gyms, restrictions on travel and everybody's favourite social distancing we are all hopeful to follow Australia's lead with the easing of restriction but we will make do either way.

Thank you again for your amazing generosity.

Best wishes 
.....
Hi Jo,

Thank you so much for the beautiful laundry bag. It is coming in very handy and is a beautiful keepsake. I appreciate the time and work you have put into it.

Sounds like you have a beautiful family. Thank you for all your support and sacrifices too; it can be just as tough on the family left behind, as it is on the member leaving their family.

Thank you also for the lollies - always a great morale booster!

Sincerely,
....

Hi Marilyn and Jan-Maree,

Thank you again for my amazing hero quilt. I love it! And as I’m moving South next week for my next posting, I’ll need an extra blanket on my bed!

It’s lovely how you support us. Thank you. 
.....

Hi Sue,

Thank you so very much for the beautiful quilt you made. I very much appreciate the time and work you’ve put into it; it looks more amazing than I ever imagined.

My son will be two soon and is right into his types of transport at the moment. He will absolutely adore it I’m sure, and it will be a very special keepsake for remembering how brave he was whilst mummy was away. For the moment, I have laid it out on my bed to bring some colour into my room. :)

Sincerely,
...

Hi Ellen,

 Well your beautiful gift arrived and to say I am grateful would be an understatement. I am so thankful for the time and care you have taken to sew this creation especially for me. It is very humbling for me.

 I joined the Air Force in 1985 as an 18 year old and unlike you I had not had any immediate family serve in the Military. So unlike you I didn’t really have any links to the military. Your families history of service is amazing and something that I hope they are all proud of.

This is my third deployment but my last two were prior to Jan-Maree creating this wonderful organisation. So for me this is very special. I will hit a milestone while I am here, 35 years in the service.

I helped out at the thank you dinner in Canberra in 2018 where I met Jan-Maree and some of the other lovely ladies. I do hope that if you have the opportunity to go to one you do as you all deserve so much for these gifts.

 I hope that you and your husband are able to start travelling again and that he can try to catch those fish for you.

Thank-you again, I am very grateful for your beautiful gift.

 I have attached some photos for you, thanks again.


....

 Hi Clarissa,

 I received the laundry bag you made me today. Mail has been taking a very long time to get here. I just wanted to say thank-you very much. It’s exactly what I wanted and I love it and thanks for the Tim Tams and snakes. Tim-Tams are like currency over here. 

The laundry bag is amazing, full of Collingwood colour and the badge which is exactly what I asked for. I will treasure it forever and I love it. I might even hang it up at Christmas and try and get bigger presents from Santa….. 

Anyway, it was very kind of you and everyone at AHQ (including my mum !!) do an amazing job and it really gives us a huge lift. I didn’t realise just how much the quilt and LBs meant on deployment, but now that I have been on the receiving end of both of them, it really does bring a sense of comfort and feeling of home that no amount of phone calls or lollies can achieve. On my last deployment about 9 years ago, AHQ started up literally the week I got home so I just missed out, but it has definitely been worth the wait. I have a few months to go, and am so looking forward to getting out of here and back to normal, whatever that is these days, but it has been an experience working with so many different nations. Anyway stay safe and thank-you once again, I really love it. Please say g’day to Jan-Maree when you see her next, I hope she is going ok.    

Regards,

....

Good morning Robyn,

 I just wanted to write to you so as to thank you for the lovely laundry bags that you created for two men who have served this nation for many years but because of circumstances have not had the opportunity to deploy overseas and receive one of your lovely creations.  

  I am in the Royal Australian Army Pay Corps. We provides contractual support on deployments and major exercises in effective delivery of real-life support (think accommodation, hygiene and catering) and other services which the ADF logistics system can’t supply (eg hire cars).  My team and I have been smashed in the past six months being deployed domestically on Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20 and now on Operation COVID19 Assist which is on-going both supporting the ADF force elements on the ground.

 I have been in the ADF now since 1996 and I’ve been fortunate to have deployed overseas three times (Solomon Islands in 2010, Timor Leste in 2011-2012 and Iraq in 2015) each time looking after each deployed force.  My full-time job is with the NSW Police Force  

JM tells me you are from the Blue Mountains  which I have been many times with my day job with NSW Police.  

Anyhow, when JM offered the limited opportunity for LBs to be commissioned for those who may not have deployed but had racked up 15 years service, the two gentlemen immediately came to mind.  Both significantly shaped my career and put me on the path to where I am today.

 I know that the two will contact you when they get their gifts but I thought I would let you know a bit about each recipient and why they are special to me.

 Person One 

 He and I go back to our days with the Sydney University Regiment when I was a fresh faced 19-year-old soldier and he was a  Sergeant there.

Our paths have crossed during our Army careers especially when I was commissioned and ended up in the same  Corps together   He eventually was commissioned himself and he has helped me throughout my career as he has specialised in the area of career management.  Being in career management unfortunately has meant that he himself has missed out on postings to places where the opportunity to deploy is greater, but a whole generation of Officers have benefited from His guidance.  On a personal level, he is a quality human as every deployment I have been on he sent care packages to myself and my team deployed.

Person Two

This man is the reason, I and probably every Army Reserve officer from 1990 to 2005 in Sydney even got through the front door.  A member of Transport Corps and joined in the Citizens Military Force (the precursor to the Army Reserve) in the late 1960s and he was a qualified Air Dispatcher at Richmond before becoming the recruiting officer at the Sydney University Regiment for over 15 years.  He joined at a time when Vietnam was finishing and retired in 2013 unable to get an age extension (he would have been in his late 60s) which would have cracked 50 years of service. 

He never deployed because he was too young for Vietnam and too old to be deployed when the trips started again.  He was one of those quiet achievers who was happy to serve and his own family weren’t aware of what he did until I posted a photo and all these young (and not so young) officers who he was their first introduction to the Army commented on his impact on their service life. The transition from civilian to soldier all the more easier because of him and he is a consummate gentleman.  

 Having been lucky enough to receive a LB when I was deployed to Iraq in 2015, I know the joy of opening a parcel with one of your hand-made masterpieces, so I know the two fellas will love them especially the fact that someone who they have never met has gone to the effort of creating something from the heart. 

Take care.

 Regards

....

Hi Melissa,

 I have received the quilt you have made for me.  Sorry it took so long, but sometimes mail delivery for us is a bit random.  The quilt is awesome I must say. 

 I have been in the Navy for over 30 years and deployed many times at sea and on the ground.  During this deployment though, I have seen a great deal of support from the community and your lovely gift is the topper.  It really does make the time away more bearable knowing that there are people at home, other than our families, who support us.  Not necessarily what we are doing, but that we are willing to do it.

It’s great to hear about families back home and that all the things that make life what it is, are still happening.  We have a tendency to get into a routine and focus on the mission.  Not completely forgetting about what is going on at home, but it has to take a back seat.  This sometimes makes it hard for the return (for all parties) and to assimilate back into normal society.  I’ve seen it many times.

 I chose Scooby, because it’s a fond memory from childhood, sitting on the lounge on a rainy day watching cartoons.  As I said, we get a bit short-sighted when away and it helps to have something simple like that.  This might sound a little strange, but trust me, it works.

 Thanks again for gift

 Cheers,

...

Dear Toni

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the absolutely beautiful and thoughtful Laundry Bag that you made for me ! It is absolutely lovely and what a beautiful reflection of native Australiana. 

I think the bottle brush print is one of the most stunning fabrics I have ever seen. I have been getting great use out of my bag and it will always serve as a reminder of the wonderful support from people likeyourself provide to all of us while we are deployed and away from home.

Amazing to hear you have made around 90 bags since July 19. What an achievement !

It is a lovely thing that you do and I cannot under estimate the joy it brings deployed members to receive something from a complete stranger they have made personally for them !

Thank you for making the time between your Disability Respite Care Work. Actually, my Mum used to do very similar work in the community so I am familiar with the contribution you make to the lives of those less fortunate than us.

We are planning some camping trips for when I get home and the COVID restrictions ease.

I hope that you have been doing alright during the strange and difficult times and that it has not caused you too much stress. I am glad to hear that restrictions are beginning to ease in Australia and hope that you get to take the advantage of your new found freedom. I am looking forward to going home soon and hoping things will be mostly back to normal by the time I get there

Thank you again for your care and support. It really means a lot to us that your

thoughts are with us while we are away. Keep up the beautiful work you do.

Kind regards,

....


 Recently Jan-Maree received a request from Solider On. They run a yoga class for veterans on a regular basis. At various points during the class they lie back to cool down or warm up (i'm not a yoga expert) and it is nice for them to have a blanket or quilt to keep warm under.

I was asked if we had any quilts we could spare for this purpose. There are many ways to support our veterans, letting them know that their service is valued and this is but another one.

Recently the quilts were collected and delivered to Solider On in Canberra.

....

Hi Sue,

I am sorry this has taken me so long to write. We have been flat out with COVID-19 here and things have been crazy. Thank you so much for the quilt. I absolutely love it. I use it all the time for the naps I need between shifts. 

I fly out of here soon, and have a special gift from you to always remember my deployment.

Thanks again. P.S. keep safe during these times.

.... 

Dear Jan-Maree,

Last Tuesday afternoon I was presented with my 20 year service pins and was also surprised in being presented with a belated Aussie Hero Quilt.

I would just like to extend my thanks and appreciation to you and your community group for all the hard work and dedication involved in your quilts.

My family would also like to say a huge thank you, and we are honoured to display your quilt in our home.

Kind regards,

.... 

Dear Kathy,

Thank you so much for the quilt, it is perfect and exactly what I like. I have it across my bed and it really brightens my room up. COVID19 has brought on many restrictions for us in the Middle East and we are getting used to them.

Luckily people have their books behind from previous deployments which has proven useful. I have read 8 books and counting!

I've been away from family for 4 months now which has been hard (husband and 2 cats). It is a rewarding career to be in the RAAF, but it does come with sacrifice. I've heard restrictions are easing in SA so I hope you enjoy some social activities. Once again, thank you so much.

It is a very beautiful quilt and will be treasured. 

.... 

Till next time, don't forget to share the word, and happy stitching friends!