Community caring - quilting group donates masks

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Danielle Taylor
  • Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations

As Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations continues its noble mission of returning fallen U.S. service members with honor, staff are working around the clock to stay healthy and safe. Helping to protect their safety, community partners are working to stop the spread of the Coronavirus by donating hand-made masks. 

Quilts of Valor, a non-profit organization who typically donates quilts to service members touched by war, quickly adjusted and got to work producing black cloth masks, each fitted with metal nose pieces and adjustable strings. 

This isn’t the organization’s first time supporting service members. Quilts of Valor has been donating unique hand-crafted quilts since 2003 to wounded warriors and veterans to recognize them for serving in combat.  

Master Sgt. William Jenkins, AFMAO first sergeant, began coordinating the effort with Marguerite Niemoeller, co-coordinator of Quilts of Valor in Dover, Delaware. With protective supplies in high demand, Jenkins had to think of different ways to protect the mortuary personnel against this invisible enemy. He thought of the existing relationship between AFMAO and the Quilts of Valor, one that was founded with hopes of comforting mortuary personnel as they care for the fallen. 

Niemoeller and her team began sewing cloth masks to donate to the members of AFMAO April 6.

“As an Army wife of a husband who (served) 20 years, I am so proud of what (AFMAO service members) do, and I really appreciate it," Niemoeller said. 

In less than a week, Niemoeller’s crew of three volunteers transformed 17 yards of material into personal protective equipment for teams supporting the mortuary and dignified transfer missions. Quilts of Valor delivered 140 masks to Jenkins, who then distributed them to the AFMAO staff. 

“The responses I got were very appreciative,” Jenkins said. “That made me smile, knowing we could help bring peace of mind and comfort to those seeking something to protect themselves.”

Airman 1st Class Arpanpreet Kaur, who is currently deployed to AFMAO from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., was incredibly grateful because it let her focus on supporting the fallen and their families. 

“With the masks being provided to us, we have been able to carry out our mission without any failure or discrepancies,” said Kaur, a manager on duty for the Fisher House. 

The staff at the Fisher House for Families of the Fallen provide 24-hour care for families who travel to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to witness the dignified transfer of their loved one. 

Master Sgt. Stasia Smith, AFMAO Operations Support section chief, who previously managed the Fisher House, said it’s wonderful to see the community come together to care for one another. 

“In times like this I think we need each other and I’m so very thankful to everybody who’s chipped in,” said Smith. “I’m thankful to our community for being able to be there for us when we needed them the most.” 

It is AFMAO's mission and privilege to fulfill our nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to the fallen, and care, service and support to their families. AFMAO not only serves as our nation's sole port mortuary in the continental U.S., but is the largest mortuary in the Department of Defense.