GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A combat veteran has turned his coping mechanism into an inspirational display at ArtPrize.

Andrew Lee, also known as the Combat Quilter, is a 20-year veteran who was deployed to Iraq twice and struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.

He said that he started quilting after his wife said they didn’t do enough things together. When the couple took a quilted table runner class at Joan Fabric, Lee said he learned that the repetitiveness of sewing was therapeutic.

“It (made) a difference versus the other coping mechanisms that I had tried before: Jack Daniels, video games, isolation and prescribed drugs that Army therapists thought you needed that, in the end, were just a Band-Aid,” he said.

“Shock and Awe” by Andrew Lee.

Eventually, he joined a men’s quilting group and Quilts of Valor, creating quilts for other veterans. Lee said he gifted his first quilt to a 93-year-old World War II veteran.

“During that instance, I actually felt something like real, true, raw, pure emotion,” Lee said. “Quilting is my coping mechanism. It is selfish. I quilt for me. It just so happens a byproduct of that is awarding quilts to veterans who (are) also struggling.”

In total, he has awarded almost 220 Quilts of Valor, Lee’s website said.

He hopes that his two quilts that have been entered into ArtPrize, “Shock and Awe” and “United We Stand,” inspire other veterans and first responders.

“I figured the best way to reach the military folks was to figure out a picture that everyone could relate to,” Lee said. “I chose the flag raising at Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima because there are so many people who were part of World Wat II and this event, and this was the one event that changed the war.”

“United We Stand” by Andrew Lee.

The 110-by-100-inch quilt is made up of 12,100 1-inch squares. The quilting design includes the shape of a dog tag.

“I figured the next best thing to try to convey this therapeutic value for firefighters, police officers, nurses and doctors, this quilt is a representation of that,” Lee said of “United We Stand” quilt. “I also feel that this is a day that everyone is alive, who was alive during this event can tell you exactly where they were. And the following day is the day in which, as a country, we were more united than any other day in history, I feel. I wanted people to be able to grab that.”

The 98-by-116-inch quilt is made up of 20,020 three-quarter inch squares.

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The two quilts will be with Lee for about a year before they go to their final homes. “Shock and Awe” will either go to the National Museum of the Pacific War in Texas or the National World War II Museum in Louisiana. Lee said he is hopeful the “United We Stand” quilt can go to the National Sept. 11 Museum in New York City.

Both quilts can be viewed at The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum during ArtPrize, the international art competition in Grand Rapids that runs through Oct. 2.