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Legionnaire Michael Allen Receives Quilt of Valor

This article was written by Stephanie Vavra.

On Monday, September 9, 2019, shortly before 7:00 p.m., Michael Allen, Legionnaire of American Legion Post 328, received a handmade Quilt of Valor®, during a short presentation ceremony at the Post, 306 E. Main Street, in Morrison, IL.  Over a score of members and guests attended.  American Legion Honor Guard member Garry Seaman nominated Allen to receive this tribute.

"I cannot think of anyone who deserves it more," he stated.

Left-to-right below are Seaman; Post Commander Terry Jones; USN Senior Chief Allen; Chaplain Robert Brands; Senior Vice Commander and Petty Officer USN Dennis R. VanZuiden.  VanZuiden has two Quilts of Valor®.  The first was made by the Beloit, WI, Land of Lincoln Quilters and awarded in the fall of 2013, when he returned to the States, after his deployment to Afghanistan.  On November 17, 2018, Nancy Hook--his nominator--gave VanZuiden a Quilt of Valor® from River Cities Quilt Guild of Fulton, IL.

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Allen stated he joined the U. S. Navy immediately after being graduated from Morrison High School in 1991.  "I planned to join for four years, to get enough money  for college.  I met 'my brothers' and [continued to serve]."

He completed three phases of SEAL training on San Clemente Island, off the coast of San Diego, CA.  It began with rigorous "physical training leading up to 'Hell Week.'"  Next was Open and Closed Circuit Dive training.  The third phase was Weapons training.  "Only 25-to-30% [of the people] complete this phase of SEAL training."

He served during 13 deployments and returned Stateside in 2011.  In August 2014, Allen retired as USN Senior Chief, after 23.5 years.  "I wouldn't change anything about my career," he said.

However, those years were not without difficulty.  "The hardest part about going into military service was leaving my family and losing 47 brothers-in-arms.  I was injured several times," and he suffers from the effects of "brain injures.  The [hardest] thing to cope with is 'survivor's guilt.'  They all take a toll."

"We'll carry those demons for the rest of our lives."

"That puts a toll on the ones you leave behind.  I have four great kids to live for!"  Allen's children are Morrison High School Senior Nicholas, Sophomore Alexandra, 8th grader Isabel, and 5th grader Elaina.

Allen's quilt was designed, cut, pieced, and quilted by different members of Northwest Illinois Quilts of Valor® Quad-Cities.  With 60 participants, it is the largest group of QOV quilters in Illinois; Morrison is in their region.  Quilter Marcia Doyle carried his fabric tribute in a pillowcase, so he can store, or travel with, it.  She read a fitting poem and explained the mission of the Quad-Cities Quilts of Valor®.  They began in May 2012 and have given a total of 1200 quilts created by "non-stop" volunteers or donated to the group.  There is a Princeton, IL, QOVF group.

Quilts of Valor® Foundation is a not-for-profit organization based in Winterset, IA.  It began in 2003, after 9/11.  Across 50 states, 225,533 quilts have been lovingly designed, crafted, and awarded.  Each is unique, but all share patriotic designs and colors in various shades.

For more information or to request a quilt, contact Terry Austin at 309-797-8584, austinrt@mchsi.com, or visit https://www.qovf.org.

On April 13, Terry Austin told the Editor Quilts of Valor® started after the attacks of 9/11 for injury patients.  At that time, quilts were awarded to those who had been affected by war.  "Now quilts are presented to all who have served," she explained.

"I put 1000 miles on my car last year delivering quilts!" she remarked.  It is worth her time and effort to literally wrap a patriot in comfort, warmth, and gratitude-exemplified in the beautiful artistry of a quilter's labor.  She knows a human touch can have a profound impact on the receiver.  Austin shared a story with the Editor to illustrate.

She delivered a quilt to a veteran of the Vietnam conflict, a man with horrible facial injuries that left him scared emotionally, too.  As she draped a quilt around him, he began to weep.  He told Austin of his decades of carrying anger and bitterness.  "Because of this, now I can let all that go.  This has changed me," he told her.  He finally felt appreciated for his sacrifice.  His tearful wife also thanked Austin and said, "You have given me back my husband."

On September 9, Marcia Doyle and Garry Seaman held Michael Allen's Quilt of Valor® as he stood before its patriotic colors.  "This is for all of us," he stated, "especially for those who didn't come back."

He is the third Legionnaire to receive such a quilt.  Ronald Wiersema was so honored on April 13, 2019.

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