By Amber Payne, Producer, NBC News
Army Ranger Josh Hargis' solemn, determined salute was captured in a photo quickly shared around the world. Hospitalized after a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan, Hargis was presented with a Purple Heart by his commander after coming out of surgery. Despite his wounds and the constricting tubes, he raised his bandaged right arm through the pain.
Barbara Conner of Lawrenceville, Ga., noticed the bravery, courage, and strength in his actions. She also noticed something else: Cpl. Hargis was wrapped in a very colorful, very familiar quilt.
"I cried. I mean, I was totally emotional," she said. "Why do I Q.O.V. [Quilts of Valor]? Josh is the reason that we do it."
Courtesy Taylor Hargis
Joshua Hargis, who was seriously wounded, salutes as he is awarded the Purple Heart.
Conner is just one of the 10,000 volunteers that make up the "Q.O.V.," or, Quilts of Valor Foundation, an organization that sews quilts for combat service members and veterans "touched by war."
Conner doesn't know whose hands made the quilt, but it doesn't matter. She and her fellow quilters aren't doing this for the glory. Seeing Hargis covered in that quilt gave her a shared sense of pride.
"To let him know that we care about him, it just warms my heart," she said.
The group has distributed some 90,000 quilts since it's founding 10 years ago.
Volunteer Theresa Pruitt says their message is simple comfort.
"There's nothing like being wrapped in the love of a quilt," Pruitt said. "It's like a hug."
Pruitt explained that in Civil War days, when the men went off to fight, they took a quilt from home that was probably made with a family member's clothing.
And so, every third Thursday, the ladies of the Gwinnett Quilt of Valor Quilters push their sewing carts into a church rec room and get to work. It's a room half-full of army brats and military wives, as well as friends, neighbors, and those without military ties.
They were all from different walks of life, but united in one effort.
"We're all here because we're patriots, because we want to share the talents that we have with the people who are guarding our freedoms," explained Q.O.V. Executive Director, Susan Gordon.
Sometimes the quilts are sent directly to military hospitals abroad, but volunteer Rebecca Keeble looks forward to thanking veterans in-person at stateside ceremonies.
"I tell 'em, I say, 'We put the fabric together, you guys are the thread. Nobody sees what you do, but you hold us together."
To learn more about Quilts of Valor, please visit their website and Facebook page.
First published October 21 2013, 3:18 PM