Wednesday 30 December 2015

Farewell HMAS Darwin...

Well, if ever you could pick the weather for your departure from the wharf for your deployment to the Middle East, today's weather had to be pretty close to what you would pick.  It was a glorious sunny morning, warm under a beautiful blue sky and with a cooling breeze to keep it comfortable. 

Today it was HMAS Darwin's turn to leave, her seventh deployment and her second with us supporting her. 

I was lucky enough to travel in with CMDR Morrison and his family to see them off.  CMDR Morrison was the Captain of HMAS Darwin when they deployed last time and his wife Maridy made two quilts for us at the time so I have come to know them well.  

What I have come to appreciate after fare-welling and welcoming home a few ships now is the number of other serving members who turn out to wish their colleagues well.  The Chaplains come out in force.  Of course it is easy for me to pick them out seeing as I have worked with many of them in the past when their ships have deployed.   There are others there as well.

When I go to theses events I walk about introducing myself to people and asking if they have put in a request for an Aussie Hero Quilt.  For those of you who never get to meet a recipient you have to know that when I meet someone who has put in a request I am usually greeted with a big smile, and handshake and a big "Thank you!".    Today was lovely as it happened that I met a few people who had been looked after by us before, having already received quilts and laundry bags from us on previous deployments.

At one point I was talking a young lady, a pilot, who had already received a quilt  whilst she was deployed to Afghanistan previously.  She had brought it with her this time and told me it was already on her rack on board the ship ready to go for this deployment. I have asked her to send me a photo of her quilt so that I can show the quilter who made it that it is going on another trip.   I had just finished talking to her when this fellow approached me and asked if I was Jan-Maree. Jean B and Jackie J, meet Duck!  You two ladies made his laundry bag and quilt.  He was there to farewell his friend from pilot's course (the aforementioned female piloe) and made point of coming up to say hello and thank you to me.  He had been a real pleasure to deal with when deployed so it was just lovely to meet him and his little fellow.

 I also met these two... one is heading off to the Middle East and is looking forward to receiving her quilt. The other one (on the left)

received this quilt from Stephanie T during her deployment and she said she loves it and uses it all the time.

Then I bumped into another two girls..... again one deploying and the other who received a quilt whilst she was deployed with HMAS ANZAC, the very first ship we ever looked after at the end of 2012 beginning of 2013.  Two years later she still loves her quilt and it lives on her sofa.  

It was lovely to meet this mother and son duo.  Son is deploying and mum is sewing for us.

I was finally able to meet the Captain.  Catching up with the captain and the chaplain when the ship is deploying just after Christmas is really challenging as there is so much they need to do and so little time and they have the added consideration of Christmas and the associated holidays in there as well. He thanked me for all that we do.  They are very grateful.

There were the inevitable speeches... Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer addressed those attending, concluding his speech with the sage advice.... "write to your Mum, she worries!" 

Our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull was there, telling the crew to "go with the thanks of the Australian people".

 And finally it was the Captain's turn to address everyone. 

He welcomed the family and friends along and Aussie Heroes even rated a mention which I thought was very gracious.  He said many things in his speech but one statement he made, which could probably have been paraphrased by many of the crew, was that leaving behind his wife and four children never gets easier, despite his many deployments.

With the end of the Captain's speech it was time for one last goodbye hug and kiss and then it was time to form up  

And march on board

 All too soon, 

to the strains of the Navy band, 

with the crew, resplendent in their whites and lined up along the rails, 

the ship began to pull away.  Before you knew it they were gone and their deployment had begun.

It is such a pleasure and a privilege for me to attend these special events but when I do what I most want to capture is the feelings toward Aussie Heroes that are passed on to me.  Everytime I approached a crew member today and asked if they had requested a quilt, those that had, made sure to thank me.  Sometimes their family members made a point of saying thank you.  Today the one that stayed with me the most was one lovely mother there to see off her son.  I think she said she has been following us on the Facebook page.    Her son had pointed me out to her and she came up to me and said she just wanted to thank me so much for what we do. At first she shook my hand but she ended up giving me a big hug.  That hug is for all of us.  I am able to go to these events but warmth of the greetings and the depth of the gratitude is for all of us who sew for Aussie Heroes and I always wish I could capture it in a bottle and send it out to each and every one of you.

Time to buy new sewing needles, time to stock up on thread.  We have a new ship to sew for and I will hopefully have their request list really soon and we can get to work.

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

Jan-Maree xx

Monday 28 December 2015

Rick and Fran...Evelyn and more

Just a short post today as I am in holiday mode..... and I need to get to the shops to re-stock the fridge as my twin 19 year olds' stomachs are NOT in holiday mode and all the Christmas leftovers are gone!

I hope you have all had a great Christmas.   We have had some lovely messages over the last week or so – if you have not checked out the blog can I encourage you to go back over the last few posts so that you don’t miss out on them.   

HMAS Melbourne surprised me on Christmas morning by posting a Merry Christmas Aussie Hero Quilts video on their Facebook page which I have shared in the posts for example and quite a number of the Air Task Group sent us a shout as part of their video messages home.   

If you are not on Facebook see if you can get someone to show you the page as there are some lovely messages and videos there as well but I just can’t keep up with sharing them via email.   

On Christmas Day I received a lovely phone call from a Captain with the deployment in Butterworth, Malaysia who we have sent 120 laundry bags to (one for every member) and 30 quilts.  He wanted to wish us all a Merry Christmas and to say thank you for what we have done for his men.   

Our lovely chaplain, Mark, who is the first chaplain I dealt with in Dubai is deployed again. He sent us a message which I shared on the blog and also told me to tell me that the Master of Ceremonies for the Air Task Group Christmas celebrations made a special mention of Aussie Heroes and all the support we are giving the deployments.

Please check out the posts over the last few days and see what you have missed.

If you are not on Facebook you won't know that I did a very brief interview with 2GB last night.  You can listen to it here if you wish...
I also received this email in the last few days...from Fran T one of our quilters and Rick her husband. Lynn made Rick's quilt while he was deployed last year. Here is what they wrote...

We are having a family day out in Canberra today so we had to go to the War Memorial to see the Centenary Quilt.

Rick saw the quilt when it was touring Afghanistan and saw them signing it for Op Highroad.


and finally I just received this email from Evelyn .....

Hi Jan-Maree 
this lovely young man payed me a visit today.  I made him a quilt back in September 2013 called Urban Life and he was visiting his girlfriend nearby and wanted to say Thankyou.   He was absolutely overwhelmed with the gift.  
Cheers Evelyn

Till next time...........................keep spreading the word and happy stitching.
Jan-Maree  xx

Friday 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone....

I had to put this out.... I hope my non-Facebook people can see this.... 

a Merry Christmas video from HMAS Melbourne just for us! 

How special!!!!  

Hopefully you can click here and see it.    

If you can't see it then grab the nearest teenager and get them to show you, it is on the Aussie Heroes Facebook page...

and here is another little something that I shared last year but it is just as relevant this year with 2000 troops deployed this year...

I wish you a Merry Christmas, wherever you are...

How will you celebrate Christmas this year?
Will you be in the midst of those you hold dear?
Will you listen to carols, will you set your table
With the prettiest plates, just as nice as you are able?
Will you travel to Grandma’s, or visit a friend
Will you accept the invite someone else did send?
Have you bought all the presents, are they wrapped ‘neath the tree
In bright paper and ribbons so pretty to see?
Is your big meal of the day dinner or lunch
Do you do both, and all day you will munch?
Do you have roast turkey, or chicken, or maybe some prawns
Does the amount to be done see you up with the dawn?

Well can you please do me a favour wherever you are
And remember our troops serving both near and far.
Those in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force
Must not forget Defence civilians, of course.
Though all of them are where they need to be
To serve our great country, that means you and me,
They can’t be at home with the ones they love most
But are in foreign lands with a different host.
They might have a Barbie, seafood or roast on a spit
And if they are lucky the ration of beer will be quite a hit.
They might have presents sent by family and friends
And probably care packages the Aussie public sends
But it won’t be the same as they would like it to be;
At home with their loved ones and family.

So please when you sit at your table this year
With those that you love and hold most dear
Spare a thought, raise your glass, remember some way
Our great Aussie Heroes who we should thank every day
For doing their duty and serving us all
So our nation is safe and we can stand tall.
Merry Christmas to all of you, whether near or far,
but especially our Heroes wherever you are.

By Jan-Maree Dec 14

Merry Christmas everyone... at home and abroad, wherever you are serving.
Thank you for your service.

Jan-Maree and all from Aussie Hero Quilts!  

Thursday 24 December 2015

Christmas Messages from the troops to you!

Christmas Eve is upon us and there is just time for one last post (unless something else good comes up).   What follows are a few messages from the troops to you all for Christmas. 

Make sure you scroll down and check out the video messages at the end, especially the ones from the Air Task Group, who were kind enough to include us in their thoughts! 
Thanks guys!

The first message is from a very special fellow. He was in Al Minhad Air Base in 2012 when I had just started up Aussie Heroes.  I made his quilt myself and met him later in August 2012 after he had returned home.   He has been a great supporter and friend of Aussie Heroes ever since and now he finds himself deployed again.....

Good morning to all the wonderful Aussie Hero Quilters

Well, I'm back ... and this time I brought with me my beautiful quilt which I received back in early 2012. This place is a desert, literally, and nothing is green (oh how I miss the green), and that is why my quilt means so much to me. I love playing golf and my quilt is basically a lush green golf course and when I step into my room from the harsh realities of our surrounds I am greeted by the colour of my quilt and am reminded of two things: one, I will see green again, but more importantly that there are people in Australia who take the time, make the effort and willingly give that my life, whilst serving in this inhospitable place is made that much easier.

So thank you and may God bless you this Christmas.
love Mark 


To the “Fleet of Quilters” who are the fine ship’s company of Aussie Hero Quilts:

(Sorry! Can’t help it!! I’m Navy through and through!!!)

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a holy and blessed Christmas.
Thank you for all your marvelous support for ADF members deployed far from home and family. I want to assure you that the beautiful gifts that you create are appreciated and treasured far beyond the end of the deployment in which they were given.

Your incredible quilts and laundry bags do not only brighten the days when we are “in theatre”. They become part of the memories from those particular moments of our lives and in the appreciation of their quality and the telling and retelling of the unique story which is at the heart of each quilt and laundry bag, they become and remain living testimonies of care, goodness and connectedness.

As a deployed chaplain, I can honestly say that each gift you send makes my job that much easier. To know that someone is “thinking about you” and appreciates what you are doing makes the days – and they can get very long indeed! – that much brighter.

So, I hope you all know that your quilts and laundry bags make a huge difference in the life of each person who receives one.

It has become a truism of Christmas celebrations that it is all about “family”. To me, Christmas is far more about the welcome, hospitality and “homecoming” that is extended to the stranger. Historically, that seems to me to make far better sense of the Jesus story. In terms of what it says about God (again, mea culpa, I’m a Christian minister, what else am I going to talk about at this time of year??!! LOL) is that Christmas is all about divine hospitality to those who are not like God – and that’s all of us!

So, when I think about the amazing things that the “Aussie Hero Quilt Fleet” does, I want to claim an echo of that divine hospitality which is at the heart of Christmas in the work of art which is every quilt and laundry bag created and delivered to a surprised and astounded stranger.

If it is true (and I happen to believe it is!) that “God is love” – then THANK YOU for the love that you pour into each gift you make. That’s the “heart of the echo” – and that echo resounds again and again every time one of us looks at the beautiful quilt or laundry bag we have received.

A joyful Christmas to you all.


CHAP Andrew Watters RAN
Chaplain HMAS Newcastle
Operation Manitou, 
Rotation 60: 01 April – 27 September 2015

Dear Aussie Hero Quilters,

Christmas is a time of reflection and thanksgiving.  For myself and many of the men and women on our rotation who were in Iraq earlier this year, we have much to be thankful for. 

We are thankful for the love and support that you provided us when we were away which was overwhelming. 

We are thankful for the messages of goodwill that you made to us, which kept us going when the days were long. 

We are thankful for your parcels of food and treats which for a few brief moments reminded us of our homes on the other side of the world.

We are thankful for the gifts of quilts and laundry bags which identified us to our Coalition partners from across the globe that we were Australians and made our brothers in arms envious of such thoughtful gifts. 

We are thankful we are home, safe and sound for Christmas. Safe in the land we love with friends and families we hold so dear, joining them in prayers for peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

We may not have known you before we left Australia and unfortunately for some, we may never get the opportunity to meet and thank you in person, however your gifts and support to us brought a small piece of Australia to us, which we are forever thankful for.  

Keep up the great work as our boys and girls are still out serving in the air, land and sea far away and would love and appreciate the same support that you gave to us. Have a very Merry Christmas, enjoy the break and all best in 2016 to you and all your families! 

Major A

Iraq 2015

Hi Jan-Maree,

From the Kabul CIS Node we would like to say a big thank you to the Aussie Hero Quilters for their support and kindness this year. We wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and are excited to be back in Australia next year, all the best for the holiday season!

From Natacha, Joshua, Nathaneal, Brendan, Benjamin, Omar, Joshua, Andrew, Jared, Bryce and William.


Hi Carol B, 

Thank you dearly for my quilt, I grew up on the north coast of NSW, so I do miss the ocean and all of the creatures within it.
I wish you a very Cheery Christmas full of love and laughter, and a new year that brings only good news and good health.
Thank you from the depths of my heart


For Cheryl R,

All the very best to you and your family for Christmas and the New Year.

It is a time of year when we know that many are thinking of us while deployed, but take note that many of us will also be thinking of you because of the generous work you do.

Please enjoy the season and keep up the great work


Aussie Hero Quilters,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you. Your tireless work is truly remarkable and each item you gift to us is a reminder that the spirit of Australia is behind us and our tasks before us will be done with the support of our Nation spurring us on.

Please have a safe and relaxing festive season from all of us here 
in the Middle East Region. .....


Hello Julie-Ann and Friends,

I just wanted to write to you all and let you know that your parcel has arrived to me over here and I am thrilled with it's contents of course but more the thought that it conveys.

I am a doctor over here amongst several other Aussie health professionals in amongst a throng of other nationalities. Everybody else always comments on how well the Aussies are looked after! Don't worry I shared the Starbursts with them!

At this time of year no matter how well adjusted you are there is always the feeling of loneliness at Christmas when you are away on such things. So thank-you all for what you are doing for all of us and may good things shine on you all from above.

Enjoy the photo as I have enjoyed receiving the parcel and Merry Christmas to you all.



And if  you don't have Facebook, here are some of the gorgeous pictures the troops have been circulating

Thank you to all at Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags) who have supported our Health team by providing Quilts and Laundry bags to us. We have also received beautiful Christmas bunting and gifts. 

and after the photo became our cover pic....

Thank you Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags) for all of your support to us during our deployment. From providing beautiful Quilts and Laundry bag to Christmas treats and decorations. Your team is truly amazing and makes our time here better. Merry Christmas to you all. 

And from the same group.


Dear Aussie Hero Quilt Hero’s,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thankyou for all your support and packages.


FLTLT Shaun Robertson
Nursing Officer

Wishing you seasons greetings and a Happy New Year.  Loved the care and attention to detail!  Thankyou very much!!

Dear Aussie Hero Quilt Team,

I would love to wish all a very Merry Christmas and thankyou from the bottom of my heart!!!

Doc Mark

Thank you Aussie Hero Quilts.
Merry Christmas!

FLTLT Luke Pitty
Dental Officer

Thankyou for spending your precious time in making these beautiful quilts.  They are much appreciated especially with the cold weather.


Dear Aussie Hero Quilts,
Thankyou so much for everything you do!  Keep up the great work.  Have a wonderful and safe Christmas and Best Wishes for 2016.

Love, Renee

Dear Aussie Hero Quilts!

Thankyou for your amazing gifts! The love and effort are clearly seen in the results, something I know the team and I will value forever.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

From, Kelsey Noonan

To Aussie Hero Quilts,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Thanks for the quilt, it has kept me warm.  Much appreciated.

SGT Matthew Ware

Wishing all at the Aussie Hero Quilts the warmest Christmas wishes. I have my lovely quilt on my bed and it brightens my thoughts every time I look at it.  Thankyou so much for the gift of your precious time and energy.  It really does mean a lot.

Thankyou and Merry Christmas.

Love, Natasha
Scientific Officer

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a productive new year. 

Thank you for all your support. 

Nursing Officer

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, thank you for your support


Wishing all the team of Volunteers at Aussies Hero Quilts for our Quilts which will provide us with memories from now and into the future. Also, thank you for the Christmas gifts which have brightened our time here.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Love,  Heather


From the Air Task Group!

And from Camp Baird.

Air Task Group Christmas Messages.... this one is extra special because it contains several special mentions for Aussie Heroes!

And just in case I have missed any... here is the complete package....Enjoy!

Merry Christmas Everyone and a very happy New Year.

Lots of love from Jan-Maree