By: Jonathan Gregory
Three comprehensive grassroots projects have emerged during the first decade of the twenty-first century to make quilts for the families of American service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marine Comfort Quilts, Operation Homefront Quilts, and Home of the Brave Quilt Project all operate nationally, yet independently. They embrace similar missions, but they implement them differently. The current study is based on oral interviews with the founders of each project and other active participants. The purpose of this research was to document the motivations and inspirations of the organizers and quiltmakers, and to examine the meanings quiltmakers found both in the process of making and giving quilts and in the quilts themselves. These meanings are imbedded in a process that translates quiltmakers’ strong subjective motivations, elicited by the service member deaths, into messages of comfort and care toward grieving military families. The messages take the form of words and symbols expressed through quilts, an iconic material form associated with both comfort and nationalism.