Archive for September, 2010

The phone rang, and I put down the latest knitting project to answer it.  My mother was on the line,  and asked what I was up to –  I told her about Operation Gratitude and knitting hats & scarves for deployed troops.  As the grandmother of a veteran, and the mother in law of an active duty soldier, she’s always trying to find something she can do to help.  When I went to Florida for a holiday, I brought information, needles and a few patterns, and off she went – trying to bring some friends along with her (they didn’t join the fun)

The other day I got the package of this year’s scarves from her – and she added a note to each one.  It  made me pause.

Dear Friend;  I hope this will help in a small way to keep you warm and dry.  The last time I knitted for a soldier was 67 years ago in Germany, when we knitted for soldiers fighting in Russia!  Let’s hope that one day, there will be peace.

My mother was  a little girl during World War 2, living in a small town outside Frankfurt-am-Main.  She, her mother, her grandmother – they knitted for soldiers in the cold of Russia.  I and my mother knit for soldiers in the cold of Afghanistan and Iraq.  We knit together the wars, the men and women who serve, the families who wait.  And we all hope, so very hard, for peace.



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Yesterday, Mrs. Obama made a speech in front of the Clinton Global Initiative gathering. It surprised some viewers, judging from the twitter feed running next to it.  There were “what does this have to do with Global issues ” tweets….   Human potential, that’s what!

She talked about harnessing human potential, and got downright specific about it – harnessing the potential of the Veterans and Military Spouses! She said:

Now, at first glance, I know this issue may seem too uniquely American in scope for such a global audience here at CGI.  But right now, the human potential of America’s veterans and military families is both vast and woefully under-utilized, and that’s not just an issue for those individuals or for this country.  It also significantly impacts what you and so many others are trying to achieve not just here in America, but around the world.

The examples she gave, of the servicemembers who have been building roads, going on humanitarian missions after every disaster, often being the first on the ground; working with diplomats, NGOs, local leaders… so why aren’t NGOs tapping that resource?  why aren’t they realizing that this group of people has the boots on the ground, been there, done that resiliency and experience?  Are they still living with that misconception that all the Veteran is going to do is shoot first, take names later?  How shortsighted!

Mrs. Obama didn’t forget the military spouses, the ones that are the glue holding the families together.  She compared the day of an FRG volunteer to that of a CEO – working with volunteers, communications strategies and coordination, learning about healthcare initiatives and new mental health counseling – and still keeping her family going without a staff to help out!  Just because our resumes may show a lot of movement, doesn’t mean we aren’t dependable, committed, ready and willing to work!

She said it so well, I’m going to pull this in it’s entirety.

So the fact is that America’s veterans and military spouses have years of experience and training doing precisely the kind of work that all of you are doing every day across the globe.  Are you building roads or schools or shelters?  They’ve done that.  Are you establishing health clinics in remote parts of the world?  They’ve done that too.  Are you trying to recruit and manage teams of volunteers?  Are you working to get clean water into a village?  Are you trying to move people to safety in the wake of a natural disaster?  You see, that’s all in a day’s work for these folks.

And that passion for serving, that commitment to helping others, that doesn’t just disappear when they return to civilian life.  In a recent survey, 92 percent of veterans reported that they wanted to serve their communities and that it was important to them.  And when asked what kind of service they wanted to do, 88 percent said they wanted to do disaster relief; another 86 percent wanted to help at-risk youth; still another 69 percent wanted to preserve our environment.
You see, for these folks, service is the air they breathe.  It’s the reason they were put on this Earth.  And many of them don’t want to serve for just a certain number of years or a certain number of deployments — they want to make their whole life a tour of duty.
Mrs. Obama promised that she’d be the conduit, helping the NGOs to connect with veterans organizations and the VA and other experts as well.  She quoted Tom Tarantino of the IAVA :
An Army veteran named Tom Tarantino put it best when he came to the White House just last week to meet with staff.  He was talking about his experience transitioning from military to civilian life.  And he said — and this is his quote — “When I left the service, I was looking for more than a paycheck.  I was looking for a mission.”
So my question – why wasn’t this covered ANYWHERE in the mainstream media???  I’d rather hear this, than another story about some congressional candidate and her latest foot in mouth scenario, or another walk out at the UN about something another leader said about another country…  Isn’t  this more worthy of coverage than some of the drivel we hear?  Isn’t this really supporting the troops and the families?
Thank you Mrs. Obama.  Thank you for bringing this to the forefront, thank you for keeping that promise you made to be our voice.  Now – we need to make sure it’s not all talk.  However we can help, we are ready.  Please, call on us.  We’ll be there.

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There are a couple of charities and causes I am fixated on – Operation Gratitude (you ARE knitting, right?) and this one – Wreaths Across America.

If you shop at Macy’s anyway – consider using this coupon book
Wreaths Across America and Supporters and working to bring a bus load of Veterans and Gold Star Mother along on our week long journey to Arlington. The trip will be a wonderfully moving experience for them and their presence will be a terrific teaching tool for the many school stops along the way.

You can help sponsor a veteran or Gold Star Mother’s trip by purchasing a $5.00 Macy’s coupon booklet on the WAA web site.

The “The Shop for a Cause” coupons can be used at All Macy’s on Sat. Oct. 16th, 2010 to receive exclusive 20% or 10% savings in most departments and 25% off a single item. Customers are also eligible to win a $500 gift card- no purchase necessary.

100% of the $5 coupon book price goes to sponsoring veterans or Mothers who otherwise could not make the trip.

Click here to get your booklet


For more information on the “Shop for a Cause” program or questions about the trip contact us at info@wreathsacrossamerica.org

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Knit one, Purl One… in Gratitude

Needles clicked, yarn spun, and discussions about patterns flowed, but in a store surrounded by the jewel tones of silk, bright worsted wool and imaginative color combinations in alpaca and cashmere, the dull tones of black and brown and grey pure wool stood out. A group of women met on a glorious summer day in Old Town Alexandria, a day that the humidity was down and a cool breeze blew across the Potomac, but they sat indoors. Why? To knit for a cause, for Operation Gratitude.

Fibre space™, a charming, welcoming and well stocked yarn store and community was hosting a “knit in”. As their website said:

Please join Volunteer Alexandria’s Big Event Planning Committee and fibre space™ for a special service project dedicated to thanking our soldiers for their service to our country.

As a military spouse, I was encouraged to see the number of knitters and crocheters sitting around the table in the classroom and on the couch and chairs in front of the huge show window , industriously making scarves and hats in the dark colors requested – and 100% wool (acrylics are not allowed – they melt when exposed to flame) There were a few military spouses, one new Army wife, a retired Navy Wife, a military child (who really picked up the pattern for a scarf and knitted up a storm) and a bunch of civilian knitters who wanted to make something useful for someone who needs a little something warm for the upcoming hard winter in Afghanistan or Iraq.   Fibre space ™ instructors were there to teach and help, and the coffee and cookies were very welcome.

There was a great side benefit, the questions! One woman wanted to know what else she could do, was there something she could do for the families (I sent her to the Blue Star Families website!) There were the questions about how do the families cope, what are the problems that are affecting us during deployment and what’s it like after deployment. Helping our civilian friends understand what military families are like was another reason to spend a fun afternoon doing something we all enjoy.

Fibre space ™( 102 N. Fayette Street, Alexandria VA) has volunteered to be a drop off point for scarves and hats made for Operation Gratitude. To find out more about the Operation Gratitude hat and scarf project, please go to their site – there are patterns and requirements.

Thank you, fibre space™, for giving us a great place to meet, for the coffee and cookies and being a drop off; thank you to the women who came and spent a holiday afternoon knitting and are still working on their projects. Do you have a yarn store in your town you enjoy? Won’t you join us in making hats and scarves for Operation Gratitude?

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Carrier at sea

The ship was moving on her stately path, on a calm sea with only a few white caps shining, when on the horizon I saw it, a ship against the horizon, in rays of sun breaking through the storm clouds ahead. A carrier, no battle group, all alone. The cruise ship, with its happily sleeping or earnestly jogging passengers, a ship designed to pamper it’s passengers with food and drink, spas and the solarium pool, keep them entertained with pools, games of all sorts – passed peacefully by the ship whose whole life will be or has been defense of it’s home, carrying the flag to ports from Naples to Norfolk, Istanbul to Reykavik, Majorca to Johannesburg.

We were alone in that sea together, one heading to Bermuda for fun and games, one heading West – maybe to home port, or to sea trials, or to find her group – I wonder, did anyone over there look over and wonder about us? How many of us cruising looked over and thought about the men and women aboard the carrier, who were working, who were away from their families? There were a few, who looked and wondered and maybe said a silent thank you.

We are out here, in our own little self contained world, cruising along with groaning buffet tables and dinging elevators, with a slight shudder the only sign other than the view out the windows that we aren’t at a hotel or resort on land. A comfortable bed and it’s not a hardship to put the shorts, tshirts and sandals of a planned week of vacation into the cute little dresser and stow the toothbrush and toiletries in that cunningly designed cabinet. But how is it in that other selfcontained world, with narrow ladders and clanging hatchways, bunks and lockers – with a galley and mess hall – instead of the lavish choices of restaurants and bars, the never ending flow of pizza and french-fries, blue drinks with little umbrellas and Moet in champagne flutes that we are enjoying.

Who was that carrier? I don’t know. But I say thank you to her crew, and to her families, the families who waved goodbye and are waiting quayside to welcome them home.

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