Quilt to Sergeant Justin Donnelly
Justin Donnelly is a native of Tioga County, and his story is a flashback to the values of the American Soldier before that reputation was sullied during the Vietnam conflict. The United States Army Sergeant came to national attention briefly during his first tour in Iraq.
Doing house to house searches in the Abu Gharib neighborhood of Baghdad during December of 2005, a stalwart grandmother thrust a baby into the arms of American soldiers from the Georgia National Guard and asked for help. The soldiers took the baby to the medic assigned to their platoon, Sergeant Justin Donnelly, who said in a 2005 interview with CNN it was obvious that something was wrong with the child.
"I really wanted to help her as much as possible," Donnelly told the CNN reporter, "so what I did was all I could do, really, and see what happens from there. I feel like God put me here to help this little girl, so that pretty much makes my whole trip here worth it."
Baby Noor, as the little girl became known, was flown to Georgia for life saving surgery to treat spinal bifida, and returned to Iraq in 2006. As of March of 2008, Baby Noor was growing up and doing well, though her parents had divorced and she was getting too big for her grandmother to carry.
Already having made an impact in the world for good, Donnelly returned to Iraq for a second tour, when on June 8, 2007 he was wounded in a suicide bomb attack. Donnelly was hit in the back, arms and legs. After being treated and finishing his service in the Army, Donnelly and wife Stacy, who he said he met in the Army while in training, now live in Nichols, N.Y. with their daughter Mackenzie and twins Isaac and Zachary.
It was that injury in 2007 that earned the humble Justin Donnelly another recognition, a quilt from the Home of the Brave Quilt Project. Patti Cawley of Valley Quilters of Newark Valley presented a quilt they made to Donnelly. Cawley said the quilt was originally made to honor Specialist Scott M. Bandhold, who was killed in the line of duty in Iraq during 2006. The quilt was going to be presented to Scott's father, Henry Bandhold, who lives in Florida, but he said he did not need a quilt in the warm climate of Florida. Bandhold asked that the quilt be given to a wounded veteran instead.
Cawley said that she did not have the heart to remove the dedication certificate for Scott Bandhold from the quilt. With the assistance of Jim Raftis, who Cawley said she knew she had to contact after Bandhold's request, the honor of receiving the quilt was given to Justin Donnelly.
Raftis said the quilt was a way to recognize wounded veterans. He said that he works to get veterans involved in the community and veterans affairs, now that they are home with their families.
Justin Donnelly said it was nice that Henry Bandhold wanted to pass his son's quilt on to someone else. The efforts of people like Raftis, Cawley, and the Valley Quilters really shows the community cares about veterans, Donnelly said. "It means a lot."
Wife Stacey said she was proud of her husband's accomplishments, and honored that people remember the sacrifices of local veterans.
"It takes a lot for someone to donate a quilt meant for a family member," Stacey Donnelly said of Mr. Bandhold's request to pass along the quilt.