Friday, July 1, 2011

Quilting Blog contest entry - Vietnam War and PVA quilt

I am blogging about an old quilt of mine for the Quilting Bloggers Weekly Quilt contest. This week's theme is Patriotic quilts and so I thought I would enter my quilt "They Served - We are proud of them". If you like my quilt please vote for it by clicking on the Quilting Bloggers link down the right-hand side of my blog.

I made this quilt for the Partners of Veterans' Association ( national quilt exhibition back in 2006 but the quilt was made as much for my husband Barry, a Vietnam Veteran, as it was for the quilt exhibition. It was later published in the PVA-produced book of the exhibition (which travelled around all States of Australia and also New Zealand).

My husband is slightly older than me - thirteen years older in fact - and so I was six years old when he went to fight for Australia in the Vietnam War. The learning curve in terms of living with an ex-Army soldier and Vietnam Veteran has been very steep over the last twenty-plus years - in fact it hasbeen almost vertical. I had never even heard of the term PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) before I met my husband, who has this condition as a result of his war service.

What I have learned during my years with Barry is that those men and women who served (and continue to serve) in the Australian Defence Force did so, and do so, willingly and without counting the personal cost to themselves or to their families.

However, we, the wives and partners, well know, our men and women came back somehow different to the people they were when they left Australia. Even now, after more than forty years on from the Vietnam War, there are many Veterans and their wives/partners who are still discovering just what has caused their loved ones to return aktered in personality, with many wounds not always visible - hence the phrase "Not all wounds are visible" along the top of my quilt.

These wounds need to be acknowledged, not just by their partners, but by the government that sent them off to war and related duties (because it is not just war-related service that can cause PTSD in the Armed Forces), and by the general public.

Several years after meeting my husband I went to a social event run by the Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia ( . The ladies there were all talking about their husbands, whose characteristics and personalities all sounded similar to what I experienced with my own husband. For the first time I felt that I was not alone in being baffled by my husband's nightmares, extreme and sometimes unexplained temper, rages, responses to loud unexpected noises ... the list goes on.

It is through the unity and "lack-of-needing-to-explain" found within such organisations that the wives and partners of our Veterans can find understanding, support and help for their veterans and for themselves.

Sadly,war and peace seems to always exist in this world side by side. However, the public tends to attack those men and women who serve their country in the Defence Forces rather than confronting the politicians who make the decisions to send troops

In making my quilt, I have chosen to pay tribute to those men and women who have served and continue to serve in the military. I am very proud to be the wife of a Vietnam Veteran, especially one who continues to give to his country and fellow ex-servicemen and women. For many years Barry was a Pensions Welfare officer, assisting ex-military to gain their rightful entitlements and medical/psychological needs from the government and community organisations. He served as Queensland State Vice-President, then President of the Vietnam Veterans Association (VVAA) for approximately six years, as well as resurrecting the South Burnett Sub-Branch of the VVAA.  Upon moving to the Sunshine Coast in late 2003, Barry subsequently became involved with our local RSL and has been on the Sub-Branch and Club Committees, serving as Sub-Branch President for the last 5 years. This is a big Sub-Branch with over 1 200 members so it does keep Barry busy but occasionally he does find the time to go fishing!

Yes, I am proud of my husband and I was especially proud to stand close to him when he received an Order of Australia medal for his services to veterans and the community back in 2005.

As for the quilt I made, the background fabric in the body of the quilt features wattle blossums, the golden wattle or acacia tree being one of Australia's most beautiful trees and also our national floral emblem. The dove in the centre of the quilt carries a wattle branch in lieu of the traditional olive branch.

The corner fabric is from (the now defunct but very wonderful and creative company) Oz Dye~Art fabrics and quilts. It features our wonderful Australian flag.

The phrases around the outside are mostly well-known phrases to do with war but the phrase down the right-hand side of the quilt "If you were there you'd understand" is one that Barry and I came up with.

The photos all are from the Vietnam War and it was critical to Barry that all three services be reperesented. For those who are interested, my husband served in the Australian Army from 1968 - 1974 as a regular Army soldier. Barry served in Vietnam from 1970 - 1971 in Nui Dat in Headquarters 26 Coy.