Saluting our Veterans November 08 2019

Our own Jen Lee has a dear friend named Maureen McNally who as worked with veterans for many years. We asked Maureen a few questions about her work, Honor Flight Network and Quilts of Valor.

1. How long have you worked with veterans and what drew you to work with them?

After my dad passed in 2009, I came across some of his military records and WWII pictures. I realized how little I know about that part of his life and started digging into VA records. So many veterans don't share their service with their families. I wanted to do something to honor his service and his memory. I started with making a quilt, which I donated to Quilts of Valor. Later, a friend introduced me to Southeast Florida Honor Flight.   

Maureen's Dad - John F. McNally U.S. Army Master Sargent

Maureen's Dad - John F. McNally (U.S. Army Master Sargent)

2. Have you helped with any honor flights? If yes, how many?

My first flight was in September 2017.  I had the sincere privilege of being a guardian for a wonderful World War II Navy veteran named John (also my dad's name) who was 90 years old at the time. Throughout the day, John shared memories of his life, his wife, his family and his work but when I asked him about his military experience, he humbly told me he didn't do anything. I slowly found out he was a SeaBee on Bikini Island in the Pacific during the war—Bikini Island is where the Atom bomb was tested! We shared a wonderful day in Washington, visiting the WWII memorial, Arlington Cemetery and other monuments. It's an experience you never forget when you see it through a veteran's eyes.

That's the only flight I've been on, but I continue to volunteer, currently as the Volunteer Coordinator, and participate in Operation Home Coming when the flights return into PBI (West Palm Beach) to welcome the veterans home. Four flights from Southeast Florida fly each year with veterans from WWII, Korean War, and the Vietnam War. 

3. Have you made any quilts for a Quilts of Valor program? If yes, how many?

Although I've made many lap quilts for veterans in VA facilities and hospice, I've only made one officially for the Quilts of Valor program. It's a wonderful program, another way to honor the service of the veterans. At the time I made the quilt, it was turned over to a Tampa group, I wish I knew the veteran that received it!

Star quilts for Veterans Day

4. Do you work with a group to make these quilts, which one and for how long?

I've volunteered with multiple groups over the years making lap quilts. One is an informal group that meets at the Hobe Sound VFW—they are focused on making lap quilts for the VA facility being built in St Lucie County. The Port St Lucie Crazy Quilters Guild had a sew-in this past July where I also participated in making lap quilts for veterans in Hospice in both St Lucie and Martin County. 

This year, I also coordinated an effort with the PSL Crazy Quilters to create three large quilts.  Guild members each created individual star blocks, which were used to create the quilts.  These three quilts will be auctioned off at the PSLCQ Quilt Show on Feb 8, 2020, with the proceeds to benefit Southeast Florida Honor Flight.

5. Do you have a current goal or number of quilts for 2019?

No specific goal or number of quilts, only to continue making the lap quilts and supporting the veterans. 

Star quilts for Veterans Day

6. What are your plans for 2020?

I'll continue to volunteer with Southeast Florida Honor Flight, helping with flights and also any fundraisers. Honor Flight is a totally volunteer non-profit organization.  Our veterans fly for free so fund raising is critical. I also plan to continue making the lap quilts for veteran in Hospice, but in addition I would like to make some quilt related items (lap quilts, placements, etc.) for Honor Flight that can be used to help raise money. 

7. What has been your greatest personal reward for this work?

It’s hard to pick one. Sharing the day in Washington D.C. with a veteran is a very special experience. For me, to witness them see the war memorials for the first time, for them to remember their service, and see them honored throughout the day. But one moment I'll never forget was while participating in a Honor Flight event at the VA hospital in Palm Beach Gardens a veteran in a wheel chair reached out and thanked me "for not forgetting them." That brings tears to your eyes, and you want to do more. And the quilting does the same, especially when you see a veteran wrapped in one of your quilts. 

8. What would you say to anyone interested in participating in a group making quilts for veterans?

Do it! Whether it is a Quilt of Valor or a simple red/white/blue lap quilt, it means so much to these veterans and their families. They need to be remembered and honored.

Star quilts for Veterans Day

9. How could someone join Honor Flight?

If you are interested in volunteering or being a guardian for Southeast Florida Honor Flight, applications are available on our website. For those outside the Southeast Florida area, check out the national Honor Flight Network to find a hub near you. There are multiple hubs across the country.     

I also recommend coming to PBI airport for Operation Homecoming to join in welcoming the veterans back after their flight. It's a wonderful patriotic event and so meaningful to the veterans. Bring your friends and family!  

We're inspired! How about you? Let us know in the comments below.