MAYFLOWER — A local veteran was honored Thursday with a hand-crafted quilt for her service in the U.S. Navy.

Volunteers with A Second Tour, which is a chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, presented one of their beautifully-stitched quilts to Sandra “Sandi” Silarski during a ceremony held at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Mayflower Senior Center.

Silarski was accompanied by her mother and other close friends as Quilts of Valor volunteers Ginny Musgrove and Brenda Bray, who represent the A Second Tour chapter, honored her with a carefully, hand-stitched quilt.

Musgrove led the ceremony after Bray read aloud a poem written by one of the group’s volunteers.

As she stood before a cluster of individuals inside the Mayflower Senior Center, Musgrove educated the crowd about how the Quilts of Valor Foundation was birthed and the reason it continues creating and handing out personalized quilts to veterans across the nation.

The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national organization that was founded by “Blue Star” mother Catherine Roberts in 2003.

Roberts often worried about her son, who was deployed in Iraq, and wanted to create a way to bring him comfort upon his return. The military mother decided to piece together a quilt to bring her son and others warmth and reassurance following their service.

“With a son deployed in Iraq, a ‘gunner’ sitting atop a Humvee, she often felt only 10 seconds away from panic. She had this vision of her post-deployed warrior struggling with his war demons in the early hours of morning,” Musgrove said of Roberts’ inspiration. “She then saw him wrapped in a quilt, which not only provided warmth and comfort, but memories of home and those that loved him.”

This vision led to the creation of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, which has awarded more than 223,900 quilts to veterans since its inception.

The quilts are uniquely made. Bray told the Log Cabin Democrat that in some cases, a limited amount of individuals take part in creating a quilt, and with other projects, many hands will play a role in creating the overall masterpiece.

Each volunteer serves an important role in making this organization and the gifts it creates possible, Musgrove said.

“Each Quilt of Valor is formed by loving hangs joining bits of fabric together one piece at a time,” she said.

The pieces represent a three-part message.

Volunteers hope to honor vets for their service, recognize the sacrifices they made and bring comfort to each veteran across the nation through the unique quilts they piece together.

“We honor you for leaving all you held dear and to stand in harm’s way in a time of crisis, protecting us from the effects of war,” Musgrove said. “Next, our quilters know that ‘freedom is not free.’ The cost of our freedom is the dedication of lives of men and women like you. Quilts of Valor are tokens of appreciation that unequivocally say ‘thank you’ for your service, sacrifice and valor. It is a tangible reminder that there are thousands of people across the land that are forever in your debt.”

While veterans’ family and friends may not always be able to provide the proper comfort because they do not share the same struggles, Musgrove said volunteers want these brave men and women to understand they “forever in all of our thoughts and hearts.”

“For those of us who have never seen combat or been in a war zone, such experiences are beyond our capacity to comprehend,” she said. “But, we believe the quilts we bring have the ability to offer both comfort and warmth. We hope when you experience dark times or need the warmth of a grateful hug, you will wrap the quilt around you so it can provide the love and comfort we have sewn into every seam.”

During the presentation, Musgrove and Bray welcomed Silarski to the front of the room and began to wrap her in the hand-crafted quilt that was decorated in stars and stripes and Lady Liberty.

Individuals who attended the ceremony walked up one by one to hug Silarski and thank her for her years of service.

Silarski served in the U.S. Navy from 1981-85 before being medically discharged. Silarski was 18 years old when she enlisted and was stationed at Sigonella in Sicily, Italy.

Patricia Drennan, who is Silarski’s mother, said that while she was proud of her daughter when young Silarski joined the military, she always worried for her safety.

“When she first enlisted, I was proud of her but I was scared,” Drennan said. “When she first left here to go to Sicily, I lost it wen I saw that plane take off. Every time they had a plane crash or anything over there, I just couldn’t sleep until I knew she was OK.”

Silarski has a military background. Her father, Frank Merkel, was a Marine. Her grandfather is also a veteran.

When she decided to join the Navy, Silarski said she was worried her father would be upset. However, he “always talked about how proud of me he was.”

Receiving a Quilt of Valor was a “true honor,” Silarski told the Log Cabin.

“It really is a huge honor,” she said. “It’s nice to have your service recognized.”