Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Quilts of Valor honors Wakefield's Aaron DeMarte

By DAMIIAN LANG

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Wakefield - There's something deeply touching about honoring a veteran of war with a handmade quilt, especially in his hometown, surrounded by family and friends.

The particular quilt that was placed Saturday on the shoulders of Sgt. Aaron DeMarte of Wakefield is not just any quilt. It was made by 20 different women from eight different states.

Michelle Royal, who organized the related ceremony at VFW Post 9084 in Wakefield, is also a leading member of the Quilting Friends Facebook Group that is responsible for making DeMarte's quilt.

Royal said the group, which is known as the Quilts of Valor Foundation, started virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Now," she said, "there are 125 in the group, and we do virtual quilting retreats all over the United States."

She added, "This quilt is a family heirloom to be passed down for generations."

DeMarte retired in 2014 after serving in the U.S. Army as a military working dog handler, a mobile patrol leader, and a security forces fire team leader.

He has been awarded numerous commendations and achievement medals for his expertise and outstanding valor in each of those positions.

"My grandfather worked at the Conoco gas station here in Wakefield," said DeMarte. "He was such an inspiration. So was my dad. Having good people around me means so much to me. All this touches my heart."

The ceremony also included a slide show and presentation of colors. Heather Spring from the Quilts of Valor Foundation read the duty stations, deployments, medals, awards and ribbons relating to DeMarte's military career. A taco bar and desserts also were served.

According to the QOVF website, more than 350,000 veterans have received a Quilt of Valor.

The foundation began literally with a dream. As noted on the website, founder Catherine Roberts' son Nat was deployed in Iraq.

"The dream was as vivid as real life," she said. "I saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter. Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being."

She added that she had specific ideas about how the quilts should be created.

"I knew a Quilt of Valor had to be a quality-made quilt, not a 'charity quilt,'" she said. "A Quilt of Valor had to be quilted, not tied, which meant hand or machine quilting. It would be 'awarded,' not just passed out like magazines or videos, and would say unequivocally, 'Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation.'"

 
 
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