The evening began with the chaplain saying grace before we started our delicious meal and then the Captain took the mike to say a few words. After thanking the crew and their families for their contribution end efforts over the course of their very successful deployment he asked me to come up on stage and presented me on behalf of Aussie Heroes with this amazing framed presentation.
I have transcribed the letter as it is for all those who sew for Aussie Heroes and not just for me and it really touched me - I hope you enjoy it as well.
AUSSIE HERO QUILTS SUPPORT DURING OPERATION MANITOU
It is an honour and a privilege to record my profound gratitude for the support that you and your fleet of quilters have provided to the crew of HMAS Newcastle during our deployment to the Middle East Region from 1 April to 27 September 2015 as Rotation 60 f Operation MANITOU.
During our time away, "Aussie Hero Quilts and Laundry Bags" delivered 181 quilts and 182 laundry bags to members of the ship's company. The arrival of these 363 items in a four month period is an outstanding achievement and testimony to your drive, energy and commitment to HMAS Newcastle. Furthermore, this triumph is significantly enhanced by the creativity and beauty of these individually designed items. The artistry and skills of the people who created these wonderful pieces is worthy of very high praise. What you and your quilters have done for my Ship's Company is simply amazing.
During our deployment, I have come to understand and appreciate the massive organisational and logistical undertaking that is involved in this project. You have taken an idea, which seems so simple and obvious and have turned it into a reality that has made a profound difference in our lives.
I want you to know that you and your fleet have created a unique and abiding memory for Newcastle's crew. Truly, the impact for good that these quilts and laundry bags have had on all of us is beyond measure. I have heard many stories around the ship of how your beautiful gifts have raised and sustained morale of the crew during the long months away from their family and friends. The smiles on their faces, the amazement at the quality and intricacy of the work, the laughter as people share the stories behind the quilt designs and the letters from the quilters and the sheer overwhelming sense of gratitude at the realization that a complete stranger has taken the time, effort and resources to create something so personal and beautiful: these are just some of the images and memories that will stay with us as a result of the generosity and creativity of all the members of your incredible organisation.
The highest honour that I can pay to you and your organisation for your dedication to our welfare and your commitment to successfully deliver far beyond anyone's expectations is to declare that your achievements are "of the highest order and in keeping with the finest traditions of the Royal Australian Navy".
BravoZulu (well done)
Commanding Officer HMAS Newcastle
In addition to the above beautiful presentation the Captain and crew of HMAS Newcastle also presented me with a cheque to go towards quilts and laundry bags in the future for future recipients. All I can say is a very heartfelt thankyou to all of them.
During the evening the dashing and debonair chaplain took me around and introduced me to many of the crew and they were all so grateful for what we do. Many of them did their best to put into words just how much what we do means, just how much their quilt or their laundry bag means to them and how much they will treasure it. From young men and women to the more mature members who have been in a while, the response was always warm and thankful. I often tell people that you do not really understand how much these quilts and laundry bags mean, how much they are appreciated, until you meet someone who has one, and you see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices or feel the warmth in their hugs. It really is very special and you have no idea how much I would love to wrap that feeling up in a package that I could send out to each and everyone of you.
I didn't get many photos, to be honest I was just enjoying talking to people for a change. Sometimes the conversations were only short or someone was taken off to the dance floor etc. I did get a few pics though ....
Maree W, here is the recipient of your Medusa Quilt. She loves it but we already knew that from her email....
Cheri, meet your helicopters and aircraft themed quilt recipient. I had a great chat to him. Your quilt is certainly well loved.
These two gorgeous fellows are brothers and the one on the left is Kay C's recipient of a Collingwood quilt. LOVES it and told me what it was like to open it up.
One of the perils of leadership is that I had to take one (or more) for the team on Saturday night and accept hugs on your behalf. As someone said to me, its a tough job but someone has to do it.
Does this fellow look familiar? Loves his quilt from Sue and Rowena and I thought the least I could do was accept a hug on their behalf.
You might remember him better like this... Hee Hee Yep, it was an onerous duty!
Till next time......................... keep spreading the word and happy stitching!