Thank you to Brother USA for sharing this sweet story with the Homefront United Network. A special thanks to everyone who entered our Brother Sewing Machine Giveaway!
Diane’s last tour was to Camp Taji, Iraq, just north of Baghdad, where she lived in a prefabricated box car for six months. “I had my own shower and facilities this time,” she said ecstatically. “It was wonderful.” Diane describes how excited she was to set up her Brother machine in the box car. “It was like having an old friend with me to keep me company.” During her down time, Diane sewed pillowcases for the soldiers and American contractors who were headquartered at the base, and at Christmastime, she made stockings for the young men and women. “It was like giving them a ‘bit of home’ while being so far away from their families,” she said.
Diane recalls one night when her box car was blasted by a sandstorm. “Among all the unpleasantries of being stationed in the Middle East, battling sandstorms is one that you never get used to,” Diane stated. She describes how the sand blew right through her box car, and dust and sand settled on everything. “My Brother machine and all my fabric were completely covered with sand,” she recalls. “I was so worried my sewing machine couldn’t survive all that sand.” She said when the storm ended, she quickly wiped her Brother machine down to remove all the sand and turned it on. “It worked perfectly,” she exclaimed. “It was incredible. It reminded me of the story about The Little Engine that Could.
At the end of her tour, Diane shipped her Brother machine back home. “The adventure was fulfilling and I feel I did some good,” Diane said. Part of her mission was to be a representative for a project in the Department of Defense called “Boots on Ground.” “It’s an initiative to let the troops know we are there with them and everything we do is for them,” she described.
In 2008, Diane decided to retire from her job with the Department of Defense and spend more time with her husband, Clyde T. Coats, retired Army veteran of 35 years. “We are a military family,” said Diane. “Even my son is a Navy veteran.” She says the love and support of her family made it easy to volunteer throughout the years. When she heard her son say, “Mom, go for it,” she knew in her heart she was doing the right thing
Last year, Diane heard about an event at Quilter’s Corner. She was excited to go back and learned that the shop had been sold to Tiffany Sherman, an architectural ceramics artist. “I was thrilled to hear about Diane’s story,” said Tiffany. Tiffany purchased the shop last June, and embraced Brother by educating herself and her team of eight employees on all aspects of their full line of Brother sewing, quilting and
embroidery machines. “I will admit it was a learning curve for me, but I’ve keyed in on the incredible features Brother offers on their machines and pass that knowledge onto our customers,” said Tiffany. She says her extensive background as an artist and her eye for color and textures translates seamlessly into the sewing world. “I’m excited to be a part of the Brother family,” Tiffany said, and getting to know my customers, like Diane, just makes it even more exciting.”
Diane now enjoys spending time with her twin granddaughters, and just last year they asked her if she would teach them how to sew. Diane took out the box containing her Brother sewing machine. The girls said, “Look, grandma, it’s covered with sand. Do you think it will still work?” Diane confidently took the machine out of the box, dusted if off and turned it on. “Yes, girls, it still works,” Diane said with tears in her eyes. “This little Brother machine traveled thousands of miles, endured sandstorms and helped me put smiles on so many faces. It did everything I asked it to do. It was perfect.”
When we think of sand, we mostly imagine ourselves on a white sandy beach, staring at crystal blue waters, and enjoying the ocean breeze blowing through our hair. But for Diane E. Ball, a retired Department of Defense civilian and Army veteran, sand takes on a completely different meaning.
Diane’s dedication and love for her country inspired her to volunteer as a civilian on two separate tours from 2003- 2004, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, where she lived in tents and wooden huts to help the United States military find spare parts to repair tanks and trucks for our soldiers. “I felt I needed to do my part,” Diane said. She describes the living arrangements as ‘really roughing it’, but she said it was nothing compared to the sacrifice our troops were making every day for our country. Diane was among the few civilian women living on base, and since she wasn’t allowed to leave, she found herself bored and without much to do after her work was completed. When her second tour was over in 2004, she went back to her home and family in Virginia and returned to her job at the Department of Defense, where she had been working as a civilian for the past 26 years.
In 2007, Diane had another opportunity to deploy as a volunteer civilian to Iraq. “I jumped at the chance to go back again,” she said, “but this time I wanted to bring a sewing machine to keep me busy in our down time.” Diane went to Quilter’s Corner, her local Authorized Brother Innov-ís Dealer in Midlothian, Virginia, to research the best machine to ship overseas. “I wanted a basic machine that was lightweight, inexpensive and easy-to-use,” said Diane. “I’ve been a customer at Quilter’s Corner for years, and I knew their Brother™ experts would guide me to make the right decision.” Upon hearing Diane’s story and her noble sacrifice to deploy to Iraq, the Brother experts at Quilter’s Corner were quick to begin researching the best machine for her. They located a Brother LS-2125i, weighing only 10 pounds, and called Diane right away. “I was so excited to receive my new Brother machine,” said Diane. “I shipped it off to Iraq, along with fabric and notions, so it would all be waiting for me when I arrived.”
“It was like having an old friend with me to keep me company.” – Diane E. Ball
The events described in this article are based on the personal experience of Diane E. Ball and Brother International Corporation makes no representations as to its products’ ability to withstand extreme conditions described in this article.