Pearl Harbor Witness Designs Quilt With Military Patches
Story originally published by Naples Daily News.
December 7, 1941, is a day that holds heavy hearts across the nation. People remember the attack on Pearl Harbor in different ways, but the aftermath is what stood out to Leilani Roberts.
Leilani, now 80 years old, lived just four miles from the military base on the Hawaiian island Oahu when the attacks happened. Injured soldiers and sailors filled the hospitals, so Leilani's parents decided to open their home to men who were in recovery.
At only five-years-old, Leilani had made friends with most of the military men coming in and out of her home. But what really sparked her interest was when a member of the Hawaii Territorial Guard took a patch from his uniform and placed it in her hand. And so began what became her biggest hobby-collecting patches.
"Every time a new soldier came to our house, I would hold all my patches in my hands and show them," Leilani told Naples Daily News. "The men would take the patches right off their uniforms and give to me, or they'd mail one to me, or buy one at the base for me."
After collecting 156 patches in four years, Leilani stored the patches inside of a shoebox for decades, until she pulled them out again five years ago. Wanting to honor the attack and the men who were affected by it, she decided to design a quilt.
Wanting more patches for her quilt, she visited a local antique and military mall and bought 100 more before getting started on the design process.
"They helped me find pieces that I had been missing," Leilani said of the employees at the mall. "If I had a patch from a first and third infantry division, they helped me find the second and fourth division patches."
With the help of a friend, Leilani created a light blue quilt with a diamond pattern. The quilt showcases 256 WWII patches from various military branches and divisions. In addition to the quilt, she has binders filled with historical information for 253 of the 256 patches, of which she spent an entire year copying by hand from a book on insignias.
Leilani says this was a day she will never forget, and it taught her "that war was ugly for everybody involved." Her patches quilt is more than a few stitches with a historical tie; it's a remembrance of where she came from and a salute to the soldiers that kept her safe.