Monday, 8 May 2017

My Visit to Canberra last week.....

As much as it is hard for me to keep up with the emails and the day to day running of Aussie Heroes when I travel anywhere, I just LOVE getting out from behind my desk when I get the opportunity, especially if that means I am going to catch up with friends or meet new people. 

Last week I made a sneaky trip to Canberra. I say SNEAKY as, for once, I did not let everyone know I was going.  I had to wait til the Monday to make an appointment with one good friend, who is also a recipient, before I could schedule any other appointments and so all my plans were made at the last minute. Fortunately, it all fell into place. 

The other reason I did not announce that I was heading away was because I was really tired and needed things to be a little quieter than my usual trips to allow myself to catch up.  I headed off on Tuesday morning after first checking my little dogs into their hotel accommodation.   A quick trip to the Post Office to drop in some parcels and collect the mail and I was on the road. I had intended to dawdle my way south but I was so much later getting away that I had hoped so pretty much drove straight through with a quick leg stretch and a hot chocolate in a Maccas on the way down. 

My hosts for my stay are friends of mine. The husband started out as a recipient and he eventually introduced me to his wife who became one of our quilters.   Another reason I had not wanted to fill my week up too full was to allow me to spend some time with these friends, something I just don't get to do often enough.  Who, these days, ever gets to spend enough time with the special people in their lives.  

That said I am of necessity a rather anti-social guest as I have to set the laptop up and answer emails whenever the opportunity arises wherever I stay. Fortunately, most of the people I stay with are recipients and therefore understand what I do or they are quilters, who are just glad it is me answering all the emails and not them... they would rather be sewing! LOL

Wednesday morning I enjoyed a little bit of a late start.. and headed out the door to meet up with my good friend and recipient WO Gary Wight, Warrant Officer of the Navy.   I got to know Gary whilst he was the Command Warrant Officer for Joint Task Force 633 in 2015.  I personally made his quilt and laundry bag and we have remained firm friends ever since.  Gary has an incredibly busy schedule, often travelling extensively with the Chief of Navy and on his own, but he will always make time to catch up with me if he can when I am in town. 

After Gary headed back to the office I set up the laptop briefly and caught up on a few emails whilst I waited for my lunch date.  I had deliberately chosen to have both meetings in the one location to enable to me to do just that.  

I was joined for lunch by Jas who was once my contact at one of the army regiments in Sydney before moving to Canberra.  She is always keen to hear the latest goings on in the AHQ world and always ready to offer assistance when needed. 

After lunch I whizzed through a few more emails before packing up and heading off to Joint Operations Command (JOC).  This was not somewhere that I had expected to be visiting any time soon but I had a quilt to deliver.   Some of you may remember that late last year I attended the Wagga Christian College on their Defence Force Day.  Aussie Heroes was one of the activities the children took part in, all aimed at giving them an understand of the Defence Force.    I had several mixed classes of Years 5-8 rotate through my room where they were asked to decorate a calico patch with messages for the troops.  The resulting patches were then sent to Sandy in Coffs Harbour who skillfully transformed them into a number of colourful quilts with the addition of some embroidered patches by Kerri.

I had asked the chaplains in various locations if they would like one of the resulting quilts to display in their location and the JOC Chaplain thought one would hang well in his location. When I advised him that I would be bringing the quilt down to Canberra and would be able to hand it over to him he had invited me to come to JOC and said he thought it would be nice if I presented it to someone.

Well, someone turned out to be the Deputy Commander, Joint Operations Command or DCJOPs for short.   At the moment that is Major General Stuart Smith who also happens to be the very first Major General who received a quilt in 2012.  MAJGEN Smith was the Commander of the Joint Task Force in the Middle East when Aussie Heroes was first founded and one of his staff requested a quilt for him.   I keep thinking that he received a really nice red, white and blue BOM quilt with an Aussie flag but unfortunately I have lost those records, darn it, so can't be sure. 

Accompanying MAJGEN Smith were his Chief of Staff Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Winchester and his Warrant Officer WO Egan.     To explain the significance of this gesture and put it into context for those without a military background... the Joint Operations Command Headquarters is a very busy place. For the Deputy Commander and two of his key staff to take time out of their day to sit and chat to me about Aussie Heroes for 30-45 minutes is an indication of how they regard our organisation.   



Pictured here are the Command Warrant Officer, MAJGEN Smith, myself and the JOC Chaplain.

This quilt will eventually brighten the walls of the Cafe in Joint Operations Command.

Throughout our chat MAJGEN Smith was very clear in his appreciation for our efforts to support the troops whilst deployed as well as those who are wounded/injured or who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  So much so, and this is really special, he has invited Aussie Heroes to attend a morning tea at Joint Operations Command on 1 June.  More about that later. 

Thursday morning was an early start, complete with ice on the windscreen which really reminded me I was in Canberra. Don't get me wrong, I was not complaining. I love Canberra and that includes the weather. I used to live there and so it was just like another welcome back.   

First up I met with Roy, another recipient come close friend, for our regular Canberra cuppa and a catch up.   Then I moved on to ADFA as I had two laundry bags to deliver to the Chaplaincy Centre. 

Earlier on this year Aussie Heroes arranged personalised laundry bags for all the new-to-defence chaplains whilst on their introductory course.  One of the chaplains involved in running the course and the Petty Officer who completes all the adminstration for the Chaplaincy Course missed out on bags so I made it a point to arrange for some to be made and hand delivered them, with some ANZACs, in person. 

I am not sure that it shows up that well in this photo but on the left the laundry bag is adorned with various medal ribbons as the recipient has a passion for medals and can you believe it.. he was able to name each and every one of the ribbons.  Big thanks to Lone Pine Medals for their donation of ribbons for us to include and also to Bridget for creating the bag. The photo, again, does not do justice to the fabric in the second laundry bag;  books, books and more books, and again, indicative of the recipient's passion.  



Two of the other chaplains also made sure to bring in their laundry bags which made a good photo opportunity.  They each treat their bags very reverently (no pun intended) and spoke of how much they value them.


I often hear of people who say that their quilts go everywhere with them and here is another example.  A quick duck back to the office and another quilt is produced to be shown off and shared and of course, another photo opportunity.


Again, on Thursday, I met up with another recipient. Claire had attended our dinner in Canberra last year but I had not had a chance to chat to her as I just been too busy.  Finally, we had a chance to catch up in person and we enjoyed a delicious lunch whilst talking about her deployment as a peacekeeper.  Fascinating and a very much under-appreciated and under-reported deployment experience.   Our chat re-affirmed my commitment to our peacekeepers in South Sudan, the Sinai and Israel for a number of reasons.

My afternoon was spent doing a little market research for Aussie Heroes... well alright, a little shopping!   I collected my friend, Aussie Hero Quilter Alison, who I also served with more years ago than either of us care to remember, and we headed off to a fabric shop.  I also managed to squeeze in a little real estate research as well. Now that my husband has accepted a full-time job in Canberra we look like buying a house down there to make it a bit easier for me to come down on a regular basis to spend time with him... if we own a house I can bring the fur-kids with me.  :-) 

In the evening a very relaxed dinner was had with my hostess (with the mostess) and a close family friend, who... again... surprise, surprise... also happens to be a recipient come friend.  It was lovely to catch up, as always, but this time we also had to discuss some Aussie Hero business.   Can't fill you in on that but all in good time I promise. Exciting things ahead is about all I can say. 

What I can tell you is that I made this fellow's laundry bag but my hostess made his quilt.  I had not seen it before and true to his word, that his quilt is always with him, he ducked out to the car and brought it in to show me.  I do love quilts that have seen some wear and a wash or two as they become so soft and cozy to the touch.  After showing it off and allowing me to TOUCH it, I watched as he carefully and attentively folded it up, smoothing it gently. The value of the quilt was reflected in the way he handled it.  It is not the first time I have seen someone handling their quilt this way, but it still brings home to me how much these quilts and bags are valued. 

Friday morning saw me hit the road.... a few more houses to check out and just as I was about to pull away from the last one I received a phone call. One of our Fallen Warrior Quilts had arrived with the mother of a member who lost his life in service.  The passing was not recent but we were asked to recognise the mother's loss with a quilt and it was our privilege to do so. Obviously I am being deliberately vague as I do not want to intrude on the family's privacy but at the same time I want share basic details with you all so that you know what we are doing when possible.  Big thanks to Bridget who made this particular quilt using poppy blocks sent in from around Australia. 

I hit the road and made it home in just over three hours. That was not the end of my day though as I had arranged to have dinner with two friends... um... yes. also recipients... (I guess there is a trend).   Dinner was to be in Maroubra, I live in Cherrybrook. I was a bit late getting away but ... oh the joys of living in Sydney.... It had taken me just over three hours to get home from Canberra.... it took me almost 2 hours to get from Cherrybrook across to the other side of Sydney for dinner.   All said and done though, it was worth it as one of the ladies had not known I was coming and the look on her face when she saw me was worth an even longer drive. She is not one for surprises so I cannot repeat what she called me when she saw me... hee hee...

Thankfully it took me only 50 minutes to get home!  I finally caught up on all my emails around 10pm Saturday night which was just as well, as I had planned to sew on Sunday and thankfully I managed about 4 hours at my sewing table.

For the time being there is no more travel planned til the end of the month now. 

Standby for more info on the morning tea at Joint Operations Command. 

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

Jan-Maree  xx




3 comments:

  1. Your travels and adventures leave Me exhausted! You are an absolute legend.

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  2. Lovely to hear about the quilts and laundry bags.

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  3. I never thought of using the flag fabric for the cord channel on the laundry bag before. Now I know what I'll use for the special one I'm making!

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