Surfing is probably the last thing a wounded warrior expects to be able to do. But thanks to an organization called Operation Surf and its parent company, Amazing Surf Adventures, veterans in treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio do just that.
A five-day experience at Van Curaza Surf School in Pismo Beach, California, gives them new hope for recovering their abilities. They also go home with a little stitched love of the quilted kind.
“Reinvent your dreams” is the tagline of Operation Surf. Pam Munns was introduced to the organization by friends and quickly volunteered. “I have a long line of family members who have served in the military, from World War II to Vietnam,” she explains. “I like to think I honor them by being a part of Operation Surf.” Pam spent 22 years as an officer with the California Highway Patrol. She’s been a quilter even longer.
Two years ago, Pam decided that each of the nine veterans participating in an upcoming class should be given a quilt to take home.“It was a really good idea except for one thing,” she recalls. “My idea came only 11 days prior to their arrival.” Pam started calling her quilting friends and local quilt shops asking if anyone would help her present a red, white, and blue quilt to each of the attendees. Much to her surprise, she received 23 quilts.
“People took them off their walls and out of their own collections. I was given a stack of quilts by Quilting Angels, a group that makes quilts for a veterans’ clinic in Santa Maria.” Emboldened by her success and feeling like she had plenty of lead time, Pam agreed to provide quilts for the next class as well.
Several months before the class, she learned 13 British soldiers would be coming, too. In a bit of a panic, she made a plea to the Central Coast Quilt Guild for donations. Pam was invited to attend a meeting and show quilts she had already collected. She and a fellow Operation Surf volunteer brought 19 quilts to the meeting. To their delight, they left with 45.
“These quilts were great quilts!” exclaims Pam, who confesses she had not been expecting anything special. “They were all beautiful and came with their own stories. Two quiltmakers told me their sons were wounded warriors. One put a quote from her son’s tattoo on the back of the quilt: ‘Never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice.’” Another quilter made a stylized American flag that was designed by her husband who insisted she also make pillowcases to match. Red, white, and blue Log Cabin quilts were made and donated by students from Santa Maria adult education classes.
“One quilter pieced the words ‘thank you’ into the back of a quilt. It must have taken half a day or more to make those blocks,” Pam comments. “When I saw the avalanche of quilts that were given for this cause, I had an emotional response that I didn’t expect. I was so proud of the quilting community and my friends. How do you thank people for that?”
At a dinner given in their honor at the local Elks Lodge, each of the 17 veterans was invited to choose a quilt from the 60 on display. Each match had a story. Pam smiles when she remembers the biggest guy in the group, a British veteran named Josh, choosing a Log Cabin quilt with a heart-shaped setting. She tells of the only woman in the group, a young Air Force lieutenant, who had lost a leg to cancer and chose a quilt made by a woman who had cancer. “That makes me choke up, tough old road dog cop that I am,” admits Pam. “Seeing those veterans get their quilts—well, there just aren’t words,” Pam says. “The quilt giveaway was never really an official part of Operation Surf, but I know we have enough to cover the next two years. So maybe it is official.”
How you can help
Thanks to the generosity of quilters in California, Pam has enough quilts for the next year or two and is not accepting quilts, tops, or quilting supplies at this time. Donations can be made to Amazing Surf Adventures, P. O. Box 1581, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406. Please make checks payable to Amazing Surf Adventures with “for Operation Surf” written in the memo section.