Quilts of Valour appreciated by many

Joan LeBlanc
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Canadian soldier thanks local WI group in person

Canadian soldier Master Bombardier Dwayne Goguen is shown on patrol in Afghanistan. PHOTO SUBMITTED

MURRAY CORNER, NB – The giving and receiving of gifts is meaningful at any time of the year, but it is even more special at Christmas time; especially when the gift comes from the heart.

A local woman’s organization found out recently just how much receiving a gift from the heart can mean to the recipient. 

In 2008 the members of the Murray Corner Women’s Institute took on a project they felt was very important; making and donating extra-large, hand-made lap quilts for a program called Quilts of Valour.

The Quilts of Valour initiative, which is sanctioned by the Department of National Defense, gives handmade quilts to Canadian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan, was formed in 2006 in Edmonton, AB. Over the years the organization has spread across the country, with many groups and charitable organizations contributing hand-made quilts to the effort. Since April, 2013 the organization had given some 3,920 quilts to Canadian soldiers. The mission of the Quilt’s of Valour organization is ‘to ensure that our soldiers are recognized for their bravery and commitment of their true patriotism to our country. We give this support through the presentation of quilts of comfort made for our military service people.’

The lap quilts made by the Murray Corner Women’s Institute  were a way of showing wounded Canadian soldiers they were not forgotten; that the quilts would ‘cover’ them with care and support.

After the Murray Corner WI took on the project they worked individually and as a group on 14 unique quilts, all of which were delivered to Camp Gagetown to be distributed to soldiers as needed.

And, satisfied with the completion of their project, they moved on to other initiatives.

Fast forward five years; in mid-November, WI member JoAnn Allen received a phone call from a soldier wanting to thank the ladies group for the lap quilt he had recently received.

“He was calling from Gagetown, where he’s stationed now. The padre there had given him the quilt…and it took a lot of effort for him to contact us, which he did. The quilt he was given was the one I had made,” Allen said recently.

The conversation led to Goguen and his wife Lynn being invited to the WI Christmas party, held in the area in early December.

Joining the Canadian military in 2001, Master Bombardier Dwayne Goguen was two months into his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when tragedy struck at home in June, 2010; his 16 year-old daughter Lauren died suddenly. He was later posted from Camp Petawawa, ON. back to Camp Gagetown, to be with his extended family and since that time he and Lynn have struggled with their loss, combined with the lasting effects of his work in Afghanistan.

“The first time I was deployed I was part of the artillery observation post; there were six of us who went outside the wire in Kandahar…we went on patrol just about every day to the towns and villages, talking to locals and seeing if they needed help. Sometimes some things happened, and sometimes they didn’t…I was on the front line and saw all kinds of things, some pretty rough things. After a while it can get to you and you tend to try to push it aside, but it stays with you,” he recalled during his visit to the Port Elgin area.

Although he did not return to his mission overseas, Goguen has continued to work at base Gagetown but has had a hard time dealing with the effects of post traumatic stress disorder.

“The padre called me one day and asked me to come and see him…when I was there we talked for a while and then he asked if I’d ever heard of the Quilts of Valour. Some of my friends in Afghanistan had gotten them when they were injured. Then he said someone had gotten one for me. The quilt was inside of this pretty cloth bag so for a while I thought it was a pillow. But Lynn and I opened it and I found it was a quilt and, I don’t know, it just made me feel good. I mean, a group of women I didn’t know had made this, knowing that someone would need it – and I did…it just had a big effect on me. I knew I had to find out who had made it,” he said.

And that led to his telephone call to Allen, who co-incidentally, was the person who had actually made his quilt.

“We talked for a while and right then I felt a connection; and I knew I had to come and meet JoAnn and the other ladies who had made the other Quilts of Valour,” he added.

Goguen and Lynn made the trip to the Port Elgin area to meet the ladies of the Murray Corner Women’s WI and join in their festive celebration.

“It was threatening to snow that night, and Dwayne sent me an email to let me know they’d arrived home safely. Being a mother and grandmother, I was really was worried, so was glad to get that message. Since then we’ve chatted a few times and sent emails back and forth. I really enjoy hearing from him. Getting to know him has been a fabulous Christmas present,” she said with a smile.

Goguen plans to keep up the connection with the Murray Corner WI, says he just feels at home with them.

“I know for them it was just one of the many projects their group does, but it was a big thing for me,” he admitted.

Organizations: Department of National Defense, Valour organization

Geographic location: Afghanistan, Murray Corner Women, Edmonton Gagetown Port Elgin Kandahar

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