Local military veteran makes quilts with almost 900 WWII badges

Steve Leader spent 8 years, thousands on quilts

SAN DIEGO - Just imagine two giant quilts made entirely of almost 900 World War II badges.

It was one young veteran's dream to create the quilts, and it took him eight years to achieve it. Now, they're on display for the first time at the San Diego Quilt Show downtown.

"The men that sacrificed so much in World War II -- my deployment was 12 months and what they had to go through for four to five years is just unbelievable," said Steve Leader, the creator of the quilts.

Leader is a veteran himself, deployed to Kandahar Air Base for a year.

It's taken a lot of time and even more money to put the quilts together. More than 870 badges are sewn into both quilts and no two badges are the same.

Leader told 10News the effort adds up. One of his most expensive badges is between $600 and $700.

"Yeah, this has been an expensive operation," said Leader. "The quilts together are probably worth $30,000. My parents are just like, 'Why are you collecting these?'"

But he said it's worth the cost and the teasing.

"You know, people will tease me. I dated a girl in the Air Force who was a pilot who thought this was really odd. She was pretty bashful, I think, about me doing this," said Leader.

You can imagine, he's also one of the few men at this year's Quilt Show.

"There are not very many men participating," said Pam Kay, president of the San Diego Quilt Show. "But San Diego is a military town and the people who have served us and who continue to serve; it's very special."

It is special, certainly, and a labor of love for Leader. He said it all paid off the moment he watched a WWII veteran spot his badge on the quilt.

"He's like, 'I haven't seen this in 70 years.' Just the smiles are really cool; just to realize a small unit that no one even really knows about today is not forgotten," said Leader.

The quilts are on display from Thursday through Saturday at the San Diego Convention Center.

More information can be found at http://www.sandiegoquiltshow.com

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