The West Haven Veterans Museum and Learning Center is hosting a reception for the presentation of a new exhibit on Saturday, March 26, from noon-2. The museum is located at 30 Hood Terrace.
Mark Matthiessen, a New Haven resident and employed by the West Haven VA Medical Center, has created a Vietnam Patch Blanket, the only one known to be in existence. Mark was inspired after seeing a WWII patch blanket on display at the West Haven Veterans Museum in 2015.
Military patch blankets are a form of American folk-art dating back to the Civil War that peaked with GIs returning from WWII. Mark found it compelling and wanted to learn more about the tradition it represented.
He researched patch blankets and could not find a single example from the Vietnam War. Mark decided this was due to the political and social environment during and after the war which discouraged Vietnam Veterans from openly displaying their experiences.
Matthiessen decided to create his own Vietnam patch blanket – to celebrate and honor the men and women who served there from 1946-1975 – and to revive an art form that had been unceremoniously and abruptly abandoned.
Over the next five years he gathered, researched and categorized over 750 patches collected from Veterans, estate sales, fellow collectors and during a 2018 trip to Vietnam.
Matthiessen picked the very best patches and had them sewn in artistic representation of a shell burst onto a government-issued “olive drab” wool blanket. The patches were slowly and meticulously sewn on by June Fellinger, the wife of a Vietnam Era Veteran, and a skilled old-school seamstress from Monticello, IA, Mark’s hometown.
The blanket is strictly a showpiece, according to the creator.
“(It) is not intended for use but to honor those who served and to be carefully maintained in perpetuity. It is a relic – a consecrated shroud for a generation and nation forever transformed by the events it memorializes,” Matiessen said.
Nearly a half century after the fall of Saigon the world finally has a Vietnam Patch Blanket. ” (It’s a) small way of saying thank you to the men and women who served in Vietnam, and especially to the 58,318 who paid the ultimate price when duty called and they stepped forward in the service of their country,” he said. Finally.