With the war officially over in Iraq and the return of troops, I wanted to revisit a woman I met several years ago named Patti Taylor. Taylor is no surgeon, but she can sew. She cannot repair the ears seared off by explosives, the cartilage in obliterated noses and fingers burned so badly the remaining digits resemble claws. But she and several volunteers from across the San Fernando Valley work late into the nights at Patches, a fabric store where they stitch until the pieces of red, white and blue fabric they mend together become a quilt big enough to wrap around a wounded veteran in need of emotional comfort. Above is a photo of Taylor, Marine Cpl.Aaron Mankin, and his daughter on one of the Quilts of Valor. From my story (Daily News, 2007):
Two years after an explosive device nearly tore him apart, the story of Marine Cpl. Aaron Mankin’s recovery is about various pieces coming together.
It’s about UCLA’s partnership with a military burn center in Texas to help heal the hundreds of wounded U.S. military men and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s about Dr. Timothy Miller, a plastic surgeon and a Vietnam veteran, who will use Mankin’s own skin and bones to reconstruct the corporal’s nose and eyes.
And it’s about Patti Taylor, a retired Army nurse who led the effort to stitch together red, white and blue fabric to create a small token of comfort to wrap around Mankin as he undergoes the first major stage of facial reconstruction beginning today at UCLA.
“I’ve spent many years at the bedside of many soldiers,” said Taylor, 63, of Sylmar, a clinical nurse at UCLA. “I know what happens to them when they come home.”
On Monday, Mankin stood tall and proud in his dress uniform as Taylor presented him with the patriotic quilt, sewn together by at least a dozen pairs of hands in a Reseda fabric shop.
He is the first to participate in Operation Mend, a project that will provide reconstructive surgery and support to injured military personnel.
“A quilt like this is significant,” he said during a news conference at UCLA. “It means individuals had me in mind long enough to make this.”