Imagine a gift so precious. Imagine something that symbolizes what you are fighting for.

Every year men and women receive colorful, detailed, homemade Quilts of Valor as they return from serving their country.

That is just what Monica Colella and the Tehachapi Mountain Quilters Guild strive to do each year as they hand out special handmade quilts in red, white and blue.

Recently, Colella took the opportunity to give local resident Cmdr. D.J. Ricketts his own Quilt of Valor. The feeling of thankfulness was definitely reciprocated.

After receiving his handmade gift, Ricketts wrote in an email, “Monica Colella took the time to design, create and present to me a beautiful quilt that showcases my pride in an organization that I have had the honor to serve in for over 20 years, the U.S. Department of Defense. ...

"My Quilt of Valor will be admired and enjoyed for years to come. It will be a wonderful talking piece that will allow for a reminder that our nation will survive and endure because of those that are willing to fight the good fight.”

Colella started making Quilts of Valor for men and women serving the country two years ago. She lost her husband, a Vietnam veteran, in 2015. She wanted to be involved in something that meant a lot to her.

“It’s my way of giving back and I’m very proud of them for what they do, putting their lives on the line for freedom, and us. These quilts are used in the healing process and enjoyment to reconnect with memories," she said.

Colella searches for potential quilt recipients. In this case, she found out about Ricketts because his mother, Linda, quilts with her.

Linda Ricketts said she was thrilled that her son would receive a quilt, and that he would love it.

Each quilt is a specialty panel quilt and the Quilt of Valor has a patriotic theme appropriate for a person serving his or her county. It also provides a visual for their hard work.

“I tell people you can wear a medal for day, put it away, but the quilt ... they look at that and it just melts them. Quilts equal healing; they don’t expect it and they are very thankful. It blesses their heart that people actually care and acknowledge what they put their lives on the line for,” Colella said.

The process is simple. The Tehachapi Mountain Quilters Guild meets once a month at the Bear Valley Springs Community Church to plan the making of the quilts and highly encourage new members to join.

The group made more than 574 quilts in 2016, and distributed them to veterans, children in hospitals, victims of natural disasters, and others in need.

The group also encourages students of the arts including those majoring in drafting, welding, or other related fields to apply for scholarships. For more information, call 661-972-1666.