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Durango quilters memorialize 13 who died in Afghanistan exit

‘Patriot Stars’ quilt donated to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031
From left: Sandy Willibrand, Jeff Punches, Holli Pfau, Marian Pierce and Barb McCall stand in front of the “Patriot Stars,” a quilt donated to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 to honor the 13 service members who died during the Afghanistan exit last August. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Durango Herald)

Four Durango quiltmakers banded together to honor the sacrifice of 13 U.S. service members during the Afghanistan exit in August, with a quilt that now hangs on the wall of the Durango Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031.

Quiltmakers Holli Pfau, Marian Pierce, Coralee Leon and Barb McCall said they donated the quilt to the VFW to honor the 13 lost, as well as all veterans of foreign wars. The quilt is named “Patriot Stars: In Memory of Many, In Honor of All.”

“These ladies get it,” said VFW Post 4031 quartermaster Meg Vanasse. “They channeled their anguish at hearing the news from Afghanistan last month into beauty, and decided to gift us with the results of their labor.”

The quilt was presented to VFW Post 4031 on Sunday during the post’s Sunday Breakfast, which is held on the first and third Sunday of each month.

The 13 Americans were killed Aug. 26 at Kabul’s airport as the U.S. military withdrew from the country. The Islamic State affiliate known as ISIS-K took responsibility for the suicide bombing that killed the Americans and 170 civilians.

When the news hit that 12 Marines and one member of the Navy died during the exit, three of the four women were already gathered to discuss quilting.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Pfau said. “We were at Marian’s, and I had this uncomfortable feeling when I opened up my phone to look at the news that was coming from Afghanistan. We were heartbroken.”

The quilt has 13 stars in the center to honor the service members who died in August, and one star in each of the four corners to honor soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

Four Durango women responded to the deaths of 13 U.S. service members during the Afghanistan exit in August by making a quilt and donating it to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Durango Herald)

“That honors all the military veterans, and they decided no better place to donate it to than the VFW,” said VFW webmaster John Punches.

Pfau said the day the group heard about the service members’ deaths she had brought some stars she made to Pierce’s house for an unknown project, and would end up being the stars used to represent the fallen service members on the quilt.

“I had brought the stars thinking, ‘We’ll come up with something,’ and all of a sudden that became really important, and we just went into action,” Pfau said.

McCall, who was called in to help with the quilt after the other three women came up with the idea, said the quilt came together in a divine way.

“When they told me the story, I was honored,” McCall said. “The way that it all happened on the day that everything happened in Afghanistan was just divine. Every star on the quilt has a heart, and we need to recognize those men.”

The women had an immediate emotional response to the tragedy in Afghanistan and wasted no time getting to work on the quilt.

“It was very intense for us emotionally, because we were so distraught by the loss of life,” Pfau said. “We needed to channel that pain into something productive that could then benefit other people.”

Webmaster for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 Jeff Punches shows off a quilt donated to the post at its Sunday Breakfast. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Durango Herald)

Punches said the VFW appreciates the quilt.

“This was so heartfelt by these ladies,” Punches said. “It was a labor of love, and you can see it’s a piece of art.”

The label for the quilt was done by Sandy Willibrand, and has the name of the quilt, the date it was dedicated to VFW Post 4031 and the names of the women who made it.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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