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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Quilting to Comfort the Families of Fallen Soldiers

Aired September 4, 2003 - 20:55   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: A young woman in Hudson, Florida decided in May to do something for the families of every American soldier who died in Iraq. She would make them a quilt.
So far, Jessica Porter and a small band of helpers have sent off 10 quilts. At last count, 286 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, more than half of them since Porter began her project.

Jessica Porter joins tonight us from Tampa, Florida.

Thanks so much for being with us.

JESSICA PORTER, OPERATION HOMEFRONT QUILTS: Thank you for having me.

ZAHN: So, Jessica, what inspired you to do this?

PORTER: My friend Ruth Ann Pluse (ph) and I, we've been following the war from the very beginning, and she brought up the idea that somehow we should use our quilting to support the families of the troops and finally we came up with the idea of making the quilts for the families whose loved ones have been killed.

ZAHN: And how have you gone about the process of finding these military families?

PORTER: We got an official list of the war dead off of the Internet and from then we categorized them by base and since then we have been calling the different bases, asking for points of contact, either through the Army Community Service, Marine Corp Community Service, chaplains or anyone who's willing to forward these quilts to the families.

ZAHN: And how have they been responding to what you're attempting to do here?

PORTER: We -- I received a call from Lieutenant Colonel Joe Rippetoe thanking me from the quilt and I felt so honored to hear from them. Because the quilt was a thank you for him -- to him for the sacrifice his son made, the sacrifices they have made and I was very honored to hear from him.

ZAHN: The quilts are absolutely beautiful, and we're going to continue to show our audience pictures of them because each one is distinctly different. You talked a little about the response that you got from Joe Rippetoe. And actually we were on the phone with him a little earlier this evening. And we want to share with you and share with our audience now what else he had to say about the difference you're making here.

Let's all listen to that telephone call now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE RIPPETOE, SON DIED IN IRAQ: When you're an old soldier like I am, you think that our young people aren't with what's going on in the world and what our soldiers are really dying for. But she knew. And I thanked her. And I said, "You know, with the way you've started out at such an early age, you're going be a wealth to our nation."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: What does that mean to hear Mr. Rippetoe say that?

PORTER: That's such an honor. I feel really privileged that he would say that about our project.

ZAHN: We know it is all labor of love. Just give us an idea of just how much work this has involved.

PORTER: I'm spending a lot of my time, when I'm not working, on my sewing that I do for business. I spend almost all of my time working on these quilts. And it takes about -- depending on the quilt, it takes about 10 to 12 hours to complete each, and we have so many wonderful ladies who have been working on this and who are helping me out. Contacting -- one lady contacted our local newspaper and just making these quilts and all the effort they have put in them. Many of them have made multiple quilts and it's just been terrific.

ZAHN: Wow. It's really quite a beautiful thing that you're doing, Jessica, along with all of your helpers. And I guess the most gratifying thing of all is to hear what Mr. Rippetoe had to say tonight.

PORTER: Definitely.

ZAHN: Good luck to you all and thanks for sharing your story with us tonight.

PORTER: Thank you.

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