Albuquerque International Balloon FiestaŽ
October 10, 2004

The Heart of America Quilt had a great crew in New Mexico. Mary, Patti and Raymond was our core group and really helped make everything happen. We arrived at the balloon field and for the first time in my life I saw hot air balloons. It was amazing. Something so huge and so powerful that it can float among the clouds. New Mexico opened its arms to the quilt and embraced its message of unity and healing.

Anyone that has worked with the quilt knows that we have the greatest respect for the men and woman that serve our country. To look on the field and see our men and women in uniform helping to set up the quilt, holding each panel, respecting it for its form and its value. I tip my hat to each of them for all the hard work they did that day for the quilt, and our country. It was a sight I will never forget, faces that will always be in my memory and the sound of "yes Ma'am, what ever you need ma'am" that will always make me smile.

They finished setting up as I headed to the stage to take my place for my speech. I left them to tend to my work and they did it all. I sat on stage with many great men and women. Medal of honor recipients, Generals and a Colonel, Navaho code talkers, Congresswoman Heather Wilson and sitting right beside me was a gentleman that was not in uniform. I asked what his affiliation was for this great service for the veterans. He smiled and told me how his son had died in Afghanistan. I swallowed hard, searching for the words, begging for wisdom to share with him. There was nothing good enough to say so I simply looked him in the eye and said "thank you" then hugged him. After we both spoke, I handed him my speech and told him that today I spoke for his son. It was such an honor to be on stage with such important people, honorable people, people who want to make our country and world better for future occupants. All of them united.

Mary (Heart of America Quilt Volunteer of the Year), Patricia, Raymond and I said so long to our new friends at the Balloon Field and headed to the Marriott Pyramid North for our next showing. Annette and her mother came to visit. They were the ladies that helped us get our Iraq Panel. Annette's brother is serving our country and they work together to get school supplies to the Iraqi children with operation pencil box. Her brother brought our Iraq Panel home to the States and handed it to Mary in New Mexico while he was on leave. Thank you Annette for making the world for these children better.
On my flight home the quilt added many wonderful people to the journey. Marc and Phyllis kept me company to Georgia and Capt. Pete checked on us during the flight (don't worry, he wasn't the one flying the plane). One sight I will never forget is when I touched down back in the north at my home airport. I started down the escalator and saw a picture right out of Time Magazine. A young handsome couple, her with a smile from ear to ear and him with tears of comfort in his eyes and a uniform on his back. I took their picture and gave them my card so I could send them a copy. Spc. and Mrs. Gunning will forever be a memory of all those longing to come home and those waiting for them.
A very special thank you to A-1Vacuum & Sewing. Without Scott, the Heart of America Quilt would not have been able to make the trip to New Mexico.

Thank you to our two hosts:

Albuquerque International Balloon FiestaŽ

Marriott Pyramid North

And to our many wonderful volunteers and donors that made this all take place.