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Home : Community : Newsletters & Stories

Newsletters & Stories

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Stories from the Prayer Shawl Ministry
Charity Stories

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Charity Feature - Operation Helmetliner
By: Lion Brand

Each month, we feature a charity that is helping people by knitting and crocheting. This month, customer Joan McAnulty sent us this wonderful story about Operation Helmetliner -- a charity that she is passionate about. Thank you, Joan, for sharing this charity story with us.

In December 2004, Linda Swinford's daughter learned that a former classmate of hers was stationed in Iraq. He described the sub-zero wind chills in the desert in the winter and how cold the troops were, especially when riding in open humvees at 60 mph. Linda knitted him a helmetliner, known as a "wooly pulley" by our Armed Forces, and asked him for suggestions. She revised the pattern accordingly.

These wool caps are worn under the helmet, but do not restrict vision. They help to trap the body-heat lost through the head -- a serious winter problem for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and South Korea, as well as many parts of the United States. Linda told me, "I was frustrated by not being able to knit thousands of helmetliners, so each of our troops would have one to stay warm."

A helmetliner worn by a soldier

Photo courtesy of
Operation Helmetliner

Wool is the best fiber for protecting our troops because it is (1) warmer than synthetic fibers, (2) it wicks away moisture when wet, and (3) wool and is non-flammable -- all characteristics important to protecting our troops.

Lion Wool, a worsted 100% wool yarn, works beautifully for the helmetliners. Lion Wool colors #820-153 Ebony, #820-125 Cocoa, and #820-149 Pearl Gray are allowed by the Armed Forces.

For knit, crochet, and machine-knit helmetliner patterns, please click to visit the Operation Helmetliner website. You can also knit or crochet scarves to keep our soldiers warm.

You may ship completed helmetliners and scarves to Operation Helmetliner, P.O. Box 236, Auburn, IL 62615.

So, in April 2005, Linda began to write articles for publication to inform knitters of our troops' need for helmetliners. She also formed Operation Helmetliner, a not-for-profit corporation, to coordinate receiving and shipping to our Armed Forces who are serving in war zones. When I read about the need for helmetliners, I remembered that my mother had knit them during World War I -- so I began knitting for our troops, told my local knitting guild about the need, and became involved in Operation Helmetliner.

As a result of volunteers throughout the U.S. knitting and crocheting these 100% soft wool helmetliners, Operation Helmetliner has shipped 14,000 helmet-liners and a total of 45,000 pieces of cold and hot weather gear since it began three years ago. 100% of all donations go for the benefit of our troops including paying the postage to ship the "Genuine, Home-Issued Gear."

Linda reports that entire battalions are asking for these wool helmetliners and scarves for this winter. There are soldiers in the mountains of Afghanistan who are already experiencing extremely cold weather.

Linda and her husband, Bob, will continue Operation Helmetliner for as long as our Armed Forces are deployed in war zones. Not only does our "Genuine, Home-Issued Gear" help them physically withstand the harsh weather conditions, but it lets them know that folks back home care about them and that they are not forgotten.

The following are just some of the comments from the troops:

"I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for all of the hard work your group has done to make us a little more comfortable here; if just being thought of by total strangers isn't enough to keep us warm this winter I'm sure the helmetliners will be."

"Thank you for sending us helmetliners. We deeply appreciate your support of the troops! The weather is hot here right now, but only for a couple more months. Soon we will get the change to put your "Genuine Home-Issued" Gear to the test! Thank you so much for thinking of us every day!"

"On behalf of the soldiers, I wish to extend a heart-felt thank you for the generous gifts of neck-coolers and wool helmetliners. They are awesome. Many soldiers in the unit made use of them. I can only imagine the time and effort it took to hand make all of them."

If you would like to read more customer charity stories, please click here.

Please join us next week for more ways to support our soldiers and veterans, when Michelle Edwards writes about "knitting your bit" for Veteran's Day.

Authored by Lion Brand

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