- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) - Tommy Forrest doesn’t sleep without his quilt.

If it’s not touching him, he goes looking for it.

It shouldn’t be that big of a deal for Forrest, a 73-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran.

It’s tough for him to explain just what the fabric means, but it’s more than just a blanket. It’s no ordinary quilt.

He can make his own quilt in a day or two, and has made more than 200.

“Most of them for people I’ve never even met,” he said.

But Forrest only keeps that one quilt - one he didn’t make. He doesn’t know who made it.

Several years ago, some friends learned that he was a quilter and a veteran, and they nominated him a Quilt of Valor.

The quilting organization is a national group that was started when a woman’s son asked for a quilt in Iraq. It spiraled into a national organization that now gives out thousands of quilts a year to veterans, both active and retired.

“I can’t explain it, but when it gets wrapped around someone, something happens,” Forrest said.

He founded a local branch of the group, and at a home in Anderson local quilters work several times a month, as they did Monday, putting together quilts for Anderson County’s veterans. The group has handed out around 150 quilts this year and plans to give out at least 250.

No official numbers are available, but since South Carolina is the top state in the nation for the quilts, Forrest expects that his group is one of the most active in the nation.

Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride was one of the veterans who received a quilt, getting his earlier this year. He agreed that it’s not just a quilt, it’s the thought and the time and the money that strangers put into doing something just to thank a veteran.

“That’s something special,” McBride said.

The whole purpose is to thank and honor veterans, said Pati Field, who turned her own quilting into quilting for veterans.

“It isn’t just a quilt, it’s an expression of how much they mean to us and how much we appreciate their sacrifice,” she said. “It’s that we’re thinking of them and honoring them.”

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Information from: Anderson Independent-Mail, https://www.andersonsc.com

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