Aussie Heroes Dinner – Oh what a night!!!

Written by AHQ

19 October 2015

Well our annual dinner is over for another year and what a night it was. We had around 50 people there and the house was buzzing. We could have squeezed in more but I think it is safe to say that we all had a great time. 

I am sure you get sick of hearing my take on things so this time I asked the Aussie Hero Friends who attended to write me a few words about what they got out of the night.  A few of them have already sent passages to me and I will include them throughout the post.  If other still wish to write please do not hesitate to send your messages in and they will be shared when I receive them.

Now to the dinner. As usually happens at a Quilter’s Gathering, there was way too much food but noone seemed to complain.  Cold meat, chicken in lots of ways, casseroles, pies, lasagne, salads, nuts, nibbles, dips… no one went hungry.  

I forgot to thank everyone for coming on the night so allow me to do that now.  People like Michele from Geelong and Lisa and Martin from Woodend (VIC) and Leanne from northern NSW, all made the effort to fly in.  Then others drove down from the Central coast, across from Penrith way, up from Camden, and the southern beaches.  People came from everywhere. 

Michele from Geelong and Robyn, Chaplain Mark’s wife 
Caris and Sharon, daughter and wife of a serving member who happens to be deployed at the moment, and Lisa K  

Maree W and Sue G 

Dear Jan-Maree and David, thank you for hosting another lovely evening for AHQ sewers, friends and recipients.
Not living in Sydney means I have no contact with others except for the dinner and this is my 2nd one. It’s nice to be able to put faces to names and everyone is so friendly.
Thank you to all the gentleman who spoke tonight.  Thank you for your insight into our recipients. When I make a quilt a piece of me goes into it. My thoughts designing it, selecting the fabric, cutting and piecing, quilting and finishing it. Each time I work on it I can’t help but smile as I see my ideas becoming a quilt. A quilt whose purpose is to express my gratitude for their service.  A quilt to provide some comfort for the sacrifices they make to serve. A reminder that Australian’s are thinking about them.
From your words tonight it is clear that recipients are feeling this. That some are overwhelmed by what has been made just for them and don’t have the words to express their thanks. I love to get  an email or note from a recipient. I also understand that some can’t find the words and that’s ok. You have reinforced the positive impact for all of what we do.

Sincerely Maree W
Bill, who accompanied his quilting wife, Maree J with Ros and her husband Chaplain Colin and Peter, who also came with his wife, Ruth B, another quilter.

Many more husbands accompanied their wives this time and I think all have gone away with an even better understanding of what it is that we do and why we do it.  

Gail, Sue M and Caroline (minus the Christmas apron this year)

Cath M and Carol J  

Chris and Maree J 

And huge thank you to our recipients. I can’t name all of them but that is not important. We had two fellows from deployments to Iraq who have been home less than a month who made the effort to join us.  Chaplain Colin who was deployed on HMAS Success and his lovely wife, Ros, came along.   Chaplain Mark, who deployed to AMAB (Al Minhad Air Base) in 2013, came along with his wife, Robyn.   We were also joined by BC who was a commander in Kandahar last year and saw much of what we did for the Special Forces guys when they lost first LCPL Todd Chidgey in Kabul, and then in the next week, SGT Garry Francis in a training exercise in New Zealand.  
Chaplain Mark with Rita C 

 Peter, Robin and wife Joan, Chaplain Col and Ros
(Julie Ann, note our awesome flag in the background!)

Katrina and our favourite Wounded Warrior Garry with Ruth B 

Donna and her husband Chris.  

Martin, husband of Lisa N (who seems to have hidden from the camera!!) with Sharon and Corina

And I could not resist sharing this one just to prove that I do actually have a family. This is Lynn’s husband Arthur with my “little boy” Mitchell and his dog, the incredibly spoiled Snickers. 

After the main meal was over I spoke briefly and then I asked our four recipients to speak in turn.  Our first speaker is not able to be identified but he talked about how the parcels raised morale and how they reminded everyone that they were not forgotten.  They put huge smiles on all the faces and that the level of appreciation was huge.  

Next I asked Chaplain Mark to speak.  His story is rather special and I do not think he will mind me sharing, as it is public knowledge, that he had to be medevac-ed home from his deployment to AMAB in 2013 as he had suffered a stroke.  He told us that he saw the quilts and laundry bags arriving and often had men and women of all ranks, junior and senior, in his office, often teary, showing him their quilts and bags and marvelling that someone would make the effort to make them for them.  Often they said they just did not know how to say thank you and felt nothing they could write would suffice.

He also talked about his own experience with his own quilt. It was sent to him in AMAB but it followed him back here and he received it whilst he was in hospital in Richmond.  Unfortunately he is another living with PTSD and he said that he often finds it difficult to sleep.  When that happens he told us that he goes out and sits in his living room and looks at his quilt.  

At the AHQ dinner, the importance of what we do through AHQ was emphasised by a variety of people who have experienced first-hand how it feels to receive a quilt or laundry bag from a complete stranger. These recipients spoke of how they treasure their quilts, as well as the comfort the quilts provide in times of adversity. One told of how he had misplaced his personalised laundry bag, and how delighted and relieved he was when it was returned to him.
A chaplain told of the young men and women who proudly showed off the quilts and laundry bags they had received, but were so overcome with emotion that they could not find the words to adequately say thank you. They were surprised that someone they didn’t know took the time to make them a gift and share a little about their lives back in Australia.
The message was loud and clear: What we do DOES make a difference.

Chaplain Mark brought the quilt along to show us and was even able to meet and thank his quilter in person.  His quilt has that lovely soft cozy feel of a quilt that is well used and well loved.  

Hi Jan-Maree,

I have been associated with  Aussie Hero Quilts for approximately two years since my wife Lynn first contacted Jan Maree and began sewing quilt tops for our deployed personnel. Saturday night was the first opportunity we have had to attend the Christmas get together.

I was looking forward to meeting other volunteers associated with Aussie Heroes but was particularly hoping that I would meet some of the recipients. I was not to be disappointed as the evening started with meeting and chatting with Mark who was a recipient of one of the very early quilts Lynn had made. Mark was so impressed with his quilt that he had brought it along with him and Lynn was able to have a picture taken with Mark and the quilt.

Following the dinner a number of recipients were asked to give a short talk on the effect receiving an Aussie Hero Quilt had upon them and others they know. Without doubt everyone who spoke said that they, and everyone they knew who received a quilt or laundry bag, was absolutely overwhelmed to think that there were people back home who were thinking of them and would give up their time to make such wonderful items for them.

I doubt that all the volunteers that work in whatever way for Aussie Heroes realise how much their efforts can raise the moral of our deployed men and women. One can be told of how wonderful it is for them but to hear their stories personally and to see the delight on their faces as they recall opening the parcels is almost beyond belief.

I know there are many quilts and laundry bags made which appear to go unacknowledged by recipients however not everyone is able to put the words together in writing. From what I was told there are many personnel, male and female, whose question to the Chaplains is, ‘”why me? I don’t know what to say or how to say it”.

I came away from the evening thanking God that the attitude of people toward our troops had changed so much over the past 50 years. And in doing so I was also thinking how much pleasure and benefit this wonderful group is giving to our troops. They are not forgotten and left alone on the other side of the world.  There are people here that are thinking of them. I feel that everyone who does something, no matter how small, for Aussie Heroes, should hold their head high and be content in the knowledge that they are contributing toward making life a little easier for our troops.

I believe the Aussie Hero Quilt business card says it very succinctly, ‘We care about the people, not the politics or the mission’.


Arthur F.

The next to speak was Chaplain Colin.  He told of the morale boost that everyone on board received when the quilts and laundry bags started to arrive and how some who had not really understood what we were about became pretty enthusiastic once the first parcels started to arrive.

He talked about the close confines in which they live, the lack of privacy and how difficult that could be at times.  He said often people would come knocking on his door to show him their quilt or laundry bag and again, to marvel that someone they did not know would take the time for them.  And they expressed an inadequacy when it came to being able to thanks their quilter appropriately.

Our final speaker was BC, on the left (below).  He talked about his own experience when receiving his personalised Rabbitoes laundry bag which had been requested for him by a colleague.  He had thought it was just a random care package and tried to pass it on to his troops but was told in fairly firm terms that he had to open it, it was for him.  He spoke of how it made him feel to receive something so personal from someone he did not know and it is also worth noting that he also made mention of the fact that the bag was accompanied with a letter, a personal letter to him. I should come clean at this point and admit that I was the one that made BC’s laundry bag and wrote the letter.  I will also share more of his story but only because he did on the night.

I usually don’t say much about what gifts are given to me, or to other recipients, personally. I share the commendations, the certificates of appreciation, the items that are given to me on behalf of Aussie Heroes, but I rarely publish info about the personal tokens and gifts that I and others receive from time to time as I just don’t think that is appropriate but this story, which BC shared on Saturday night, helps to illustrate how BC felt about receiving his laundry bag.

As BC tells it he used to be the Commanding Officer of a Regiment and when he was leaving he and his RSM had 100 coins minted to give to members of the extended regimental community that had inspired them, or had made a significant contribution to their capability, or who had made their mission as CO and RSM richer in some way.  Finally BC had one coin left and he had been thinking about who to give it to.  When he received his laundry bag he decided, as he wrote in his letter to me, that “the right home for the last of these coins” was in my possession.  

How very special and how very humbling. It is one of my most prized treasures but the reason I shared the story is because it illustrates how special BC thought his laundry bag was, because it had been made for him by a stranger and was a gift to say thank you and we appreicate you.

I won’t say too much more about how BC said the men were influenced by the quilts and laundry bags that they received as I know Joan intends to write about this later this week when she has a little more time and I do not want to steal her thunder but suffice to say, their reactions were similar to BC’s.

“Thank you for a wonderful evening, I enjoyed meeting all the people that are so like minded and supportive of Aussie Heros. 

The talks from the various people you arranged was great and enlightening.  

The talk from the chaplain from the HMAS Success pointed out that not all recipients were able to respond to the quit maker, often due to an inability to express their feelings adequately in response to such a gift.

Mark’s words pointed out the ‘security and comfort” the quilts gave. 

BC (last but not least) made me understand the emotional training that they undergo NOT to get emotional or hold their emotions in check and how the receiving of a quilt or laundry  bag made them feel more human and realize there is another world and we care about them.

Thank you 


Another special moment for Lynn and Arthur as Lynn also made BC’s quilt top, seen here with BC’s wife, Fiona, who is also one of our quilters!

I just wish I could have recorded the thoughts and feelings and the stories related by our four wonderful guests so that I could share them with all those who sew for us.  

After the speeches we all indulged in desert – fruit, cakes, slices, nuts and nibbles.  All very yummy.  As I said, quilters know how to cater for a group!!!

Finally I have to thank all those who helped on the night which was lots of people.    Leanne (who seems to have escaped the photos also!!!) spent the night at my home and so she got into the kitchen and cleaned a lot of it up while I was saying goodbye to people. Thanks Leanne. You are welcome any time.  To all the people who helped put the food out, helped tidy it away, filling my fridge with leftovers (as well as plenty that were taken home) a huge thanks. An extra big thanks to everyone who brought food and drink, especially grateful are my sons who have applied themselves to the leftovers with gusto!

A very big thank you to my own personal hero, David.  He did not get any say in whether I started up Aussie Heroes or not, I just told him when I had done it.  I could not have hosted Saturday night without his help.   He is still crushing cans and getting rid of recycling and so on.  Huge thank you  David. I am so lucky to have your support.

I wish you could have all been there and I know it was out of the question for so many because of distance but I hope this write up has given you an insight into how special the night was at least.

Till next time……………keep spreading the word and happy stitching.

Jan-Maree xx

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  1. Outback Crafter - Debra

    That is a wonderful blog post. Thank you. Those personal accounts made my eyes sandy. 🙂

  2. Sue Niven

    Thank you JM and family for doing such a wonderful thing. Thank you for all the lovely stories, pictures and thoughts that were shared. I wish all of you who have received and will receive a quilt good health.

  3. Unknown

    As always, it was great to read the blog. Blessings on all of your for the comfort( physical, emotional and mental) that you bring to our serving troops. So glad that the evening was a success- as if there would be any doubt about that. .


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