Friday, 25 July 2014

Operation Cover Cameron - Mission Accomplished

Normally on a Friday night we would have our Weekly Dispatches post but this week you will have to wait till tomorrow night.  Tonight we have something much more important to cover.

On the second of June I launched a project called "Operation Cover Cameron". You can check out the blog post here but I will also give you a quick re-cap. 

Part way through his deployment on HMAS Darwin for Operation Slipper (now Operation Manitou) Able Seaman Combat System Operator Cameron Green was sent home early due to a hip complaint.  He was then diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and has needed to undergo chemotherapy.   As if that is not enough, he fractured his femur whilst in hospital and has to undergo surgery for that too.  

On HMAS Darwin's Facebook post about Cameron they wrote

"Being a keen Arsenal supporter he has always voiced his support for the Gunners throughout

 the deployment. He reports that while watching the recent FA Cup final in hospital he was

 repeatedly in trouble with the ward nurses, as his constant cries had them believing he was in

 some sort of pain. As the game was televised early in the morning in Australia, he was not very

 popular on the ward."

As you can imagine the crew was devastated to hear the news and have been keen to stay in
 touch and support Cameron as much as they can, albeit from a distance.

One of the things that I love about the Aussie Hero Volunteers is their willingness to participate in a special project when it is for a good cause.  

What do quilters do in a crisis?  We make a quilt!  Simple really!

When I announced Operation Cover Cameron I was overwhelmed by the response.  I asked all the volunteers to make a red and white star block using a tutorial posted on the blog. Before long all the stars came flying in from all around the country.  I decided that the quilt needed to be a row wider than normal, to allow us to fit in more stars and therefore,  to allow more people to contribute.  Also, Cameron is not a little fellow so I figured we needed to make it nice and cozy for him.  Besides,  this quilt does not have to fit in to a Bx2 Box or on a ship's rack.   When he goes back to sea I will gladly make him a quilt that will fit on his rack!

Today, Maridy (wife of HMAS Darwin's Captain) and I went to visit Cameron in hospital and deliver the quilt to him.  His father, Rob, (pictured here) met us in the foyer of the hospital and took us up to Cameron's room.

As I said I was inundated with volunteers who sent in stars.  

Rita M, our English soccer quilt expert, created the star with the Arsenal Motto on it and Debbie created the fabulous Arsenal block  and added Cameron's nickname "Greeny" to the top.

At the same time I contacted HMAS Darwin and gave them the option to get involved with the quilt as well. I figured a few messages from the crew would be appreciated by Cameron and it also made the crew more a part of the project.   The Captain and the Executive Officer wrote messages, then a message was written from the whole crew. Additionally, Cameron's friends had the chance to write a message for him as well.  Of course we had to include some GREEN.

Lynn had the challenge of putting the backing together and then Debbie added a little bit more applique.   Finally it was up to Debbie to quilt and bind the quilt.  

The large panel in the middle features the following poem, written by one of the crew.

I joined the Navy at the young age of seventeen
And saw sights that blokes from my hometown had never seen
I didn’t think I’d see anything better than the famous MCG
But then I got my posting, I was joining Darwin, a mighty FFG
We sailed on my first day, straight out on the big blue ‘O’
The sea was rough as guts throwing us to and fro
I got worried on that day as you couldn’t see any land
I’d joined from central oz I was used to golden sand
A wise chief saw me there and noticed my despair
He took me to the Ops room and sat me in a chair
I looked around at this place of marvel and great wonder
And thought to myself any foe should stand from under
He said welcome to combat son
This is the place where warfare’s done
He explained that day and night operators watched their RADAR sweep
And this let the rest of us get an all night sleep
Whilst the room was dark, consoles lit up like a XMAS tree
They showed me a plot which had land I could see
They spoke using jargon and bloody weird words
Talking of Goblins, Zombies, Bruisers and Birds
I asked with so much going on, how they get missiles in the air
And was answered, that easy mate ‘we do warfare before welfare’
I felt better that day as I looked around the room
And knew I would be with loved ones, very very soon
I felt funny then that I’d felt such grief
And remembered the words of the wise old chief
Whenever you get worried when you’re out on the big blue ‘O’

Just remember son, you’re in the safe hands of the AIO

Before you ask me - AIO stands for Action Information Organisation and don't ask me any other questions coz I can't (don't know how to) answer them!  LOL

And of course, when Cameron goes back to sea he is going to need his laundry bag so Rita M created this one especially for him.  

Iit seems rather immodest to say it but in all honesty Cameron was pretty chuffed with his quilt.  His father asked me convey just how grateful he and his family are to all those involved in the making of the quilt as well.  

As for how Cameron is going and what is ahead of him..... well he starts his next two weeks of Chemotherapy on Monday.   Once that is completed he will head over the St Vincent's Hospital to have surgery to replace his damaged hip.  At some point after that, once he has recovered to an appropriate stage, he is hoping that he will be transferred to Brisbane where his family live so that he can benefit from being close to home and friends....and mum's coooking!   At the moment his parents are taking it in turns to travel down and spend a week with him in Sydney.

Cameron and his family have a way to go on this journey but I know you all join me and wish him the very best for a speedy recovery as son as possible.

Till next time................keep spreading the word and happy stitching!  JMxx

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Military Challenge Coins

Tonight we have a guest author who I will allow to introduce herself.  
If you enjoy her writing, and I certainly did, then we need to think of some more subjects for her to write about so we can enjoy her efforts more often.  


By way of introduction, my name is Jacqui. I am one of the many who have been charmed by JM's cooking, and been so impressed with the fantastic job AHQ-ers have been doing.

I am married to a wonderful guy called Dan. We are both serving members in the RAAF, and are quite 'used' to not being in the same location/country. There is a great unspoken understanding between serving members;  we all look and act tough, but honestly, we all get homesick.

When asked, most of us will shrug it off and say it's the life we chose, but secretly, most of us are jealous that 'normal' people and their families spend every Christmas together or pop over to their parents' house for home cooked meals etc.  When deployed, or away for work, these feelings hit a little harder and we all discover we are purely marshmallows.

It was during my husband's fourth deployment that he discovered AHQ.  He saw some of the fantastic quilts, and being a huge fan of Dr Who, he requested a Dr Who themed quilt.  Dan was fortunate enough to receive a quilt made by Julie Ann. You see, JA's secret specialty is Dr Who themed quilts, although I think she is kind of getting sick of them ;)

Well, there was going to be a payoff.  Because of the time frame, it wouldn't make it overseas in time, and Dan would personally have to pick up the quilt from JM's house...lucky for us.   JA was flying up from Adelaide (Dan's hometown!) and we were able to meet both fantastic ladies one afternoon.

There is a down side to this story.  If any of you have been to JM's house, or had parcels from her, you would know what I mean by the following statement: If you visit JM, be assured you will have to run an extra five kilometres to stay under your BMI!  Seriously, JM's cooking is so awesome and moreish... I feel like an addict, need more!

Having said that, when JM asked if anybody could help her out and write a story for the blog, I offered... There better be brownies in this deal by the way!

So without further delay, the following is a quick little story about challenge/military coins.

Without kids of our own, our niece and two nephews do get a little spoilt when we see them, and also know that occasionally one of us may be away for a while. They don't notice how often we are gone, as they live in WA and we are here in NSW,  but they do know Uncle Danny has been away a couple of times for long periods, most recently for 7 months. During his last deployment, Dan wanted the family to send him something to do, and so everyone started sending him lego sets.  Much to the dismay of one of my nephews "but is says ages 4-12! Uncle Danny is older than 12!"  and  "I'm four, can't I have it?" .....

"Uncle Danny has something special for you guys which he has sent all the way from the Middle East!"  The three kids were listening in anticipation.   Where is the middle east?  What is he doing there?  But most importantly, what is it??? To see all this lego disappear to a faraway place, there must be something grand coming back!  Uncle Danny said so!

Dan had ordered each of the kids a coin from his deployment. He had mentioned that he was getting the kids one, and my two brother-in-laws asked why they weren't getting one. So Dan asked the whole family, who wants a coin? Much to our surprise, everyone in the family said yes.

It is safe to say both sides of our families have a limited understanding of the military, but they all understand a military coin is pretty special.  To a 4, 5 and 9 year old, the meaning of a military coin isn't so clear, but such a love and respect they have for their uncle, they understood it was special.

"Make sure you carry it on you, cause if I come and visit and you can't show me you have it in your pocket, you owe me a drink!" Was the message the kids received, and straight away Elisa put it in her school bag for show and tell. For a while anytime Dan or I was on skype with them, all three would run and grab their coin.

One of my sisters had no understanding of these coins two years ago, but after her business supported a fundraiser for Australia's Federation Guard she was sent one as a thank you.  I explained to her a military coin or challenge coin as they are also known, is pretty special in some circles. Granted the significance is bigger in the US Military circles, but they are pretty important here too.

Coins generally are a heart felt thank you, or job well done (also known as a Bravo Zulu), given by superiors to other ranks to praise and thank.  Sometimes a coin is hidden in a handshake, so as not to embarrass the recipient.  Sometimes its a big presentation done on deployment or back at the home base.

The significance of the coins has grown here, and for most members its pretty special to receive one.  Not everyone gets a coin from the hierarchy!   I myself have been fortunate enough to receive on from the Minister of Defence whilst in East Timor-  its a bit larger then the normal size, and was presented in its own box.  It currently sits with other RAAF memorabilia, and brings back some fond memories of my trip to East Timor.

The history of a challenge coin, they say, dates back between 50 and 100 years. Most documented story is from World War one, where a US pilot was forced to land in hostile territory. The American was able to escape and when the French soldiers confronted him, they were convinced he was a German. He pleaded for his life and showed a unit coin he had in his pocket.  The French Officer immediately recognised the insignia on the coin and postponed any plans to take the American’s life until his identity was validated.  Later, the pilot was released, and the legend has it that the challenge coin presented to his would-be French executioner saved his life.

With such a powerful history, you can probably now understand the significance of receiving a challenge coin.



What follows are some of the coins that Jacqui has received!  

Thanks so much Jacqui.  Brownes are a soon as you have passed your next Fitness Test.  

Till next time..................keep spreading the word and happy stitching!  JMxx

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Soldier On Quilt

Most of you will recognise this as the logo for that wonderful organisation called SOLDIER ON. If you have not heard about them then you need to check them out here

I pinched this from their website but I don't think they will mind

Soldier On is about Australians coming together to show their support for our physically and psychologically wounded. We want to show the men and women of our Defence forces that we will always have their backs.
Thanks to the support of the Australian public, we work to enhance recovery, inspire communities and empower Australia’s wounded, giving those who have served our country the dignity they deserve and the chance to do and be whatever they choose.
Soldier On is independent of government and looks to build on the support offered by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and other government agencies by supporting all of Australia’s wounded, serving and ex-serving. We are funded by generous Australians – just like you – and every dollar donated to the charity goes towards programs to help our wounded.
We want to make sure our wounded are able to overcome the obstacles caused by their injuries; enjoy happy, fulfilling lives; and feel proud for the sacrifices they have made.
We also serve as the link between wounded Australians and their communities, allowing people from all walks of life to support our wounded men and women and help them succeed in their rehabilitation and beyond.

The Soldier On Organisation was formed in 2012, the same year as us.    I am delighted to say that they have asked us to provide a quilt to be raffled at their Gala Ball on the 29th of August this year.   I have to say it is as honour to be asked and a privilege to contribute their cause.  Anything to benefit our wounded heroes is very important to me. 

I am not going to show you the whole quilt yet as it has not been completed.  All I can share so far is the logo that I have re-created and in a couple of weeks I will show you the whole quilt.  It will be auctioned on the night as part of a silent auction.  
You don’t have to be at the ball to bid on it. 

Wish us luck.  I hope it raises a lot of money as I can’t think of a better cause or one that is more close to my heart.

By the way, I am going to the ball and would love to hear from anyone else who is coming!

Till next time………………keep spreading the word…………….

and save your pennies so that maybe you can put in a big!  JMxx

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Hi all.

Well I am back in Sydney and have hit the ground running to catch up on a bunch of things that are happening.  We are doing some special things for an awesome bunch of people but I can't say too much here as I don't want to give the game away but hopefully I will be able to share in coming weeks.  Suffice to say that I have to do a whole lot of preparation today so that a whole bunch of parcels can go in the mail tomorrow afternoon to quilters all over Australia who want to be part of it.  If you are a quilter and do not know what I am talking about please don't email me this time.  I am flat out. If you want to be part of these special projects you need to be on the mailing list.  Let me know if you want me to add you.  

More lovely thank you messages to enjoy tonight plus some great photos. 

This quilt made by Jenny and Gale,  has arrived in the Sinai and has been warmly received. 


Dear Joan and Robin,

Thank you very much for the beautiful blue laundry bag. I like the colours and it certainly lifts what is currently a fairly bare an un-homely room as I have only arrived a few weeks ago. 

I hope that you get plenty of thanks from all of the service men and women who receive one of your bags. It is a great encouragement to know that people like you care and are thinking of us over here in Afghanistan, and the laundry bags are a great practical daily reminder of this.

thank you and all the best, 


Hi Joan,

Thank you so much for the lovely laundry bags that were received in our Headquarters today. They will go to new members as they arrive in Afghanistan. It is great to know that there are people back at home in Australia thinking of us, and the bags go a long way towards brightening up our rooms.

Best wishes to you and your family.


Hello Robin,

I would just like to say thank you for the lovely Hero Quilt I received today.  Love the WCE (West Coast Eagles) logo and yes they haven't had the best year.  It is so great to have something that reminds me of home.
It will add some much needed colour to my otherwise boring room.  It is a definite moral boost within the unit as each member shows of there quilt.

Thanks again

Hi Jan-Maree,

It took a little while, but I finally received my quilt in the mail from my wife back home so that I could take a picture of it to send to you, as I promised.  Before I went home on leave back in April I sent the quilt home expecting it to arrive before me so that I could get my family to take the photo for you; however, (as I should have expected) 'Murphy' had other ideas and conspired against my plan.  The parcel arrived 7 days after I returned to Afghanistan!  Net result, the quilt is now well traveled and has seen Afghanistan twice. :)

I would like to personally thank you for the quilt and laundry bag that you made me, but also, for all of the hard work you do in coordinating the returns from ALL of the Aussie Hero contributors across Australia, no small task.  The personal time you invest and hard effort does make a personal difference to each of the recipients - From seeing their proud faces I can assure you of that!

The following two photos were taken by the chaplain and sent to me.  :-) 

This is the first quilt made by Merida - if you want to read more about Merida and how she fits in to Aussie Heroes and why she is so special you can check it out here

The chaplain's sister, Hilary, and her quilt group made this one.

And this quilt was made by Keryn for one of our South Sudan recipients - just received the photo this week.  :-)


Hi Carolyn,

Just contacting you to let you know I have received the wonderful quilt you made. I must express my most sincere thanks! I really appreciate your thoughtful consideration, and effort. It really does make a big difference to the morale of our group to know our work is appreciated back home.

Again, many thanks Smiling face with smiling eyesand kind regards


Dear Jill S,

I just wanted to thank you so much for the quilt that you made!  I have attached a photo for you of the quilt on my bed here.   I have almost finished the seven month deployment now and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated coming back to my room and seeing your quilt after all the very long days.  It always put a smile on my face and made me think about all the nice things in the world. Your generosity and your time is so greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Dear Sue P

I am the guy who you made an Aussie Hero Quilt for?!  I am writing to thank you very much for a magnificent quilt.  Your support means a great deal when on deployments such as this in the middle east.  I have sent you a package as well as a token of my appreciation which should arrive shortly.  I hope you are enjoying your retirement!  I have included a couple of photos that a mate of mine took of me in front of the aircraft that I maintain over here.  I am hoping to get some more to send to you in time.  Thanks again Sue.

Best wishes

(waiting for permission to share the photos.)

Hi Jennifer,

Thank you very much for the quilt and the laundry bag that you made for me. I don’t know how you find the time with all of the grandkids, but I really appreciate it. I have been here in the Sinai for eight months and it is very nice to know that people at home are thinking about us. Your kindness is very much appreciated.

That is all from me for tonight.  

Till next time...............keep spreading the word and happy stitching!  JMxx

Monday, 21 July 2014

Magnificent Melbourne

Hi all.  
Time to catch you up on my fun and games in Melbourne.  It has been an absolutely wonderful trip.  it really makes a difference to get out from behind my desk and meet quilters and, especially to meet recipients. 
Of course I can't do this all the time but it is well worth it when I do.  

I arrived in Melbourne on Thursday and that night I was the guest speaker at the North of the Yarra Quilt Group.  What a lovely, friendly bunch of ladies.  I was assisted in my presentation by Sue N who has been sewing for us for some time now.  Sue showed the quilts that she has made for HMAS Toowoomba crew members which saved me from taking quilts to show. I did take three quilt tops with me and a laundry bag to show.  There were lots of questions about the quilts and laundry bags so hopefully we have got a few new quilters now.  One lady made a point of talking to me as her husband is ex-Royal Navy and so she understood immediately the benefit of what we do.  She has already promised to get involved.  

On Friday morning I drove to Cranbourne, south of Melbourne, and met up with (from left to right) Sarah, her daughter, Rebecca and Eleanor.  

Sarah is married to the chaplain from HMAS Newcastle and she helped make quilts for the crew when they were deployed, as did Rebecca, her other daughter Emma and even her youngest, son Matthew.  Her friend, Eleanor also made some quilts for the ship.  It was lovely to meet them in person.

From Cranbourne I moved on to HMAS Cerberus. 

This is the Navy's premier training establishment with about 6000 personnel undertaking training each year and around 800 trainees onboard at any one time. 

The base is 70km from Melbourne.  It was established in 1911 as Flinders Naval Depot and was commissioned in 1921 as HMAS Cerberus.   The primary role of the establishment has always been training Navy personnel but the establishment of four tri-service schools over the last 13 years means that personnel from all three services are now trained there.

HMAS Cerberus is named after the three headed dog in Greek and Roman mythology which guards the entrance to the underworld to prevent the dead from escaping.  Perhaps his job is to keep the recruits from escaping.  

Personally I think that HMAS Cerberus is a very beautiful base wonderful grounds and a many heritage buildings.  I always loved living in the Wardroom as the Officer's Mess is called in the Navy.  The exterior of the building has hardly changed since I was last there in the early 1990's

I love the lead light doors and the fabulous old leather couches with the classic artwork. The picture over the mantle place here depicts "Divisions", or a parade, on the grass parade ground at HMAS Cerberus.  I wish I had taken a close up for you- I have done my fair share of those. 

I remember passing my 30th birthday in the bar sitting on these lovely leather couches.  

These are the front doors from the inside. Note the date .....EST 1915. 

I shared the following on Facebook but as I know there are some of you who don't "do" Facebook please bear with me as I repeat it here.  My first posting in the Navy, after completing my Communications Officer's Course was to HMAS Cerberus. At the completion of my posting, as it traditional, I presented the Wardroom with a gift. Often it is suggested that you give them a silver placemat or a pewter mug but I wanted to leave something of me behind so I embroidered the Naval Hymn and had it framed. I never saw where it was hung myself as I left the base the next day but I heard it was hung out side the dining room.  Nice to know it is still there 22 years later!  

Funny to say that I don't remember it being that big!  

After visiting the Wardroom we made a quick visit to the Executive Officer who was gracious enough to welcome me into his office for a quick chat and a briefing on Aussie Heroes.  The Commander is now well aware of what Aussie Heroes offers to deployed members and promised to pass our details on to those he knows who are soon to deploy.  At his invitation I found our Facebook page for him on his ipad, just to be helpful I "liked" it for him too. :-D

Navy-specific training includes School of Survivability and Ship Safety, which specialises in firefighting, damage control and nuclear biological chemical defence, seamanship and weapons training. HMAS Cerberus is also the home of the Recruit School and, for all sailors, their first contact with life in the Navy.

This is the front of the building .....

and here is the back of the building with the inspiring words HONOUR, HONESTY, INTEGRITY and LOYALTY.

HMAS Cerberus also has two gorgeous old chapels.  

Our Lady Star of the Sea, Memorial Chapel which was built in 1948 at a cost of 30000 Australian pounds collected soon after WWII from Catholics all over Australia.  Much for the furnishings and religious items were given by individuals and organisations.  Plaques throughout the chapel recognise the donors, many of whom gifted items dedicating them to a son killed in war or to a ship in naval service.  

Among the many benefactors are American actor/singer Bing Crosby who donated the stained glassed windows where the present confessional is located.  Unfortunately we looked for those but could not find them.  If you have a photo of them I would love to see them.  

The current Catholic Chaplain posted to HMAS Cerberus was the chaplain that we dealt with on HMAS ANZAC, the first ship deployed to Operation Slipper that we looked after.

This is St Mark's  Chapel which was built in 1954 but unfortunately it was locked and I was not able to get the same information for it.  

My host for the occassion was the delightful Chaplain who was, until recently, deployed to Al Minhad Airbase.  I thought he had dressed like this just for me, medals and all, but then I realised that he had had Divisions that afternoon and hence the extra smart turn out.  He and his family were kind enough to host me for dinner that night and it was a very warm and friendly evening with a delicious roast dinner and a lovely family to share it with.  I can only imagine how much they are all enjoying being back together again.

Saturday morning saw me hit the road and head to Kew for breakfast with a recipient who received a quilt from Louise and the Dolphin Quilters from Old Bar in NSW.  

Lunch was had at a cafe in Templestowe.  This photo was shared on the Facebook page as well but this is my sister-in-law Julie and myself standing and then seated in front of us are Kaye, and Sue P with the purple scarf.  As always it is so nice to put a face to the names that are the emails I receive.

In the afternoon I spent some time with the our HMAS Darwin Chaplain's wife in Mt Martha - it is so exciting to think that the next time we meet up we will be on the wharf to welcome the ship home in less than a month!!!  

I rounded out my evening with a lovely dinner at a restaurant called Simon's Peking Duck in Box Hill.  My dinner companions were a recipient just three weeks back from Kabul (Su made his Tardis themed quilt) and his wife (purple jacket) and a chaplain from Laverton (in the grey shirt) and his wife (blue jacket). Another dinner guest was kind enough to take the photo.  

What a lovely evening.  As stated the restaurant was called Simon's Peking Duck and, as you might guess, the specialty of the house is!   And guess who the only person was to not eat the DUCK!  You guessed it!  Me!  LOL  Noone minded, but I did keep getting in trouble from Simon himself because I was not eating enough and was talking too much.  Happens so often on these kinds of occasions as people have lots of questions.   When I wasn't looking Simon would make faces behind my back about me talking too much, or he would dish up more food on to my plate. Hilarious!

I don't have any other photos for you at the moment.  I had not planned anything specific for Sunday but late on Saturday night I answered an email from a new quilter who had some some questions and on an impulse I asked her where she was located. Can you believe it.......Mt Martha.  I have been in Mt Martha on Friday and Saturday already!   It seemed silly not to try and meet up with her if possible and so we managed to arrange to have lunch together in Brighton.  So, welcome to a new quilter, Carol C and her friends who she says are quite keen to get involved. 

Sunday night my husband flew down from Sydney to join me for dinner with his extended family.  He works in Melbourne from Monday to Friday anyway so this was a good chance to catch up.  It also meant that we at least got to start our day together briefly this morning before I dropped him at the train station at 7am so he could head off to work.  Today is our 24th Wedding Anniversary.  

Happy anniversary to my very own hero, without whose support Aussie Heroes just would not be possible.  xxxxx 

By the time you read this I will have entertained myself for the morning in Melbourne and then will have joined the MUC Pilgrim Patchworkers at their regular get togeher in the afternoon.  Straight after that I will head to the airport to catch my aircraft home so you will have to wait for another night to read about that.  

Hope you have all had a good weekend.  I have had a wonderful time but I am ready to get back home and get stuck back into lots of things that are brewing in Aussie Hero-land.

Till next time................keep spreading the word and happy stitching!  JMxx