PITTSBURG — All year Little Balkans Quilt Guild members sew, sew and sew. 

One thing they’ve been sewing are quilts of valor for military veterans.

On Monday at the Presbyterian Church, the group presented quilts to veterans from the community during a banquet. 

“It’s just tremendous,” said quilt recipient Phil Carter, who served in the United States Army Reserve between 1967 and 1973. “I’m thankful and appreciate this organization doing this to honor the veterans.” 

The veterans shared their stories, including Hazel Swarts, who entered the Women’s Army Corp in 1961. 

“The best thing that happened to me was I met Jon … we were married for 52 years,” she said. 

Swarts dropped out of school in eighth grade and had to get her GED to go into the military. 

“But the Army got me a PhD from Kansas State, and I went to school on the G.I. Bill,” she said. “If you’ve got teenagers out there and you’re looking for a place to go or something to do send them to the Army, Navy, the Marines, the Coast Guard.” She also encouraged women to take the opportunity to go into the military because “it’s also the women’s Army,” she said. 

Current military service member United States Army Lt. Col. Kirk Duncan’s mother Becky Duncan came to speak on his behalf during the event. According to his mother, he wanted to share about VetLinks.org which was founded by his late friend, Pittsburg native and U.S. Army Major Brian Kavanagh. The organization supports veterans, their families and caregivers and veterans that are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse disorder. The organization works to “bridge the gap” where the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sometimes falls short of providing services that veterans need. 

Little Balkans Quilt Guild Member Elma Hurt considers the quilts “quilts of love” for their service to the country. 

The whole thing started a few years back when she wanted to make quilts for veterans in her Sunflower Kiwanis group. Hurt couldn’t make just one quilt for one veteran, she wanted to show her appreciation to all the veterans she knows. 

A friend of hers decided to join in on the quilt making and then the quilt guild followed suit. 

They began making quilts of valor for their family and their friends. Then they started reaching out to the community and even gave a few quilts out to veterans who were visiting the American Legion.