My last deployment was a little rougher than the rest, and I came home with an injury from which I would make a full recovery. The nature of the injury is not really worth mentioning, and many on the ground that night were hit much harder — some lost their lives, some lost limbs or eyesight. Back in the U.S., I was dealing with about a million other infinitely more important things at the time, so having been a little roughed up was at the bottom of my list of things to take care of. Still, it’s hard to describe these priorities to your family, as they are naturally most concerned with every facet of your health and well-being.

My grandmother has many talents, one of which is making quilts. She’s made myself, my brother and my cousins several quilts upon high school graduation or other significant life events. She is a part of a quilting guild, and when they had heard what happened to me they got to work creating what they called a “Quilt of Valor.” They finished and gave me the quilt, each one having signed it.

The quilt is just over 5ft wide and 6ft long. I hang it up over my bed by wooden clamps built specifically for quilts. The vivid red and blue has a way of catching the eye beyond the regular American flag I have hanging in my living room, or really any piece of fabric that I own. There is something about those rich colors that embodies the parts of patriotism I embrace, and the human, personal part of the America that I love.

I never really put much stock in medals. Like many service members, especially those who have served in combat, I have seen people perform heroic deeds and would never see their medal recommendations make it past the chain of command — I have also seen NCOs or Officers practically weasel their way into valorous awards that they didn’t deserve. I’m not a total pessimist about it, and I have seen a Ranger earn a Distinguished Service Cross with no question in my mind about him deserving it.

I understand and agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly. Medals are given to show an official appreciation for exemplary actions both inside and outside of combat, it’s just that I don’t really put a whole lot of stock in them most of the time.

On the other hand, I do appreciate coins. I’m not so much a fan of challenge coins necessarily, in the sense that I don’t go to bars and slam down my coin to someone wearing a military t-shirt. I have mine on the top of my small dresser in a little display. All of my coins were given to me as a personal token of appreciation for something I had done. They are like little medals given to me from a specific person who, man to man, was basically saying “thank you for doing X” or “Goob job accomplishing Y.” There are no criteria, no investigations, no need for proof — just a simple token of gratitude. I appreciate those more than any medal I have ever earned.

That’s how I felt about the quilt. Like the coins, it was a token of appreciation and I count it among my very few sentimental personal possessions.