Struggles with PTSD from Iraq Lead to Creativity for One Staff Sgt.

Mar 23, 2021 at 10:21 am by WGNS


U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee struggled with PTSD after returning home from Iraq. 

Lee served in the US Army for 10-years where he was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas. He completed two deployments to Iraq. He suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq.

One way Lee copes with his PTSD is through art. Lee made a massive quilt that depicts the raising of the flag over Iwo Jima. It has 12,100 squares of material and took about a year to sew together. The quilt is massive and is almost a 10-foot square.

Information About Andrew

Andrew Lee is a relative newcomer to quilting. A comment by his wife, Kristy, that they should do more together resulted in the two of them taking a table runner class at their local fabric store. That was five years ago. And as history will record, that was the beginning of Andrew's love affair with quilting.

Growing up in Muskegon, MI, Andrew attended Orchard View High School. His family includes a brother, Donald, and sister, Heather. Parents are Jack Lee of Lenoir City, TN and mother, Cindy Bellefeuil of Muskegon, MI.

Andrew's life took a serious turn in 1997 when he joined the Army. He served 10 years on active duty including two deployments to Iraq. Like many other soldiers, he sustained injuries, experienced the death of fellow soldiers, and came home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His introduction to quilting made Andrew realize it was good therapy for his PTSD. It helped to keep his mind engaged and gave him a purpose. He also began making Quilts of Valor for soldiers touched by war. To date, he has completed 47 quilts, 33 of which have been Quilts of Valor.

Always looking for a new quilting challenge, Andrew had in his mind that he wanted to replicate the famous photograph showing U.S. Marines raising the American flag on the island of Iwo Jima. Consulting with his mother to transfer the photo to an actual pattern, they determined that one-inch squares would bring the photograph to life in fabric. Of course, Andrew was quick to come up with a way to construct the quilt in 100-square increments. Over the next year, he worked on it at every opportunity, even setting up a sewing machine in his semi-truck to sew during his off hours as a professional truck driver. Now complete, the 110" by 110" quilt contains more than 12,000 one-inch squares.

Andrew is dedicated to military service, having spent the past eight years as a member of the Tennessee Army National Guard and just reenlisting for another eight years. He has a passion for those who have served our country and one day hopes to create a sewing therapy group for veterans.